Dubai: At least 88 people including 10 children have died in detention in the past 171 days since the start of the Syrian revolution against the rule of President Bashar Al Assad, according to a report published on Wednesday by Amnesty International.
Syrian activists told Gulf News that the figure of custodial deaths could be much higher than the 88 that were documented in the Amnesty International report. They have accused the regime of systematically killing protesters in a bid to crush the uprising against the 48-year rule of the Al Ba'ath regime.
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"The 88 deaths represented a significant escalation in the number of deaths following arrest in Syria. In recent years Amnesty International has typically recorded around five deaths in custody per year in Syria," said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International's researcher on Syria.
"These deaths behind bars are reaching massive proportions, and appear to be an extension of the same brutal disdain for life that we are seeing daily on the streets of Syria," he said.
He said the accounts of torture Amnesty International have received are horrific.
"We believe the Syrian government to be systematically persecuting its own people on a vast scale." he said.
He said Amnesty International has seen video clips of 45 of the cases — taken by relatives, activists or other individuals — and has asked independent forensic pathologists to review a number of these.
"Injuries on many of the victims' corpses indicate that they may have suffered horrendous beatings and other abuses. Signs indicating torture include burns, blunt force injuries, whipping marks and slashes," he said.
One video clip seen by Amnesty International shows the body of Tariq Ziad Abdul Al Qadr from Homs, which was returned to his family on June 16.
"His injuries included pulled-out hair, marks to the neck and penis possibly caused by electric shocks, an apparent cigarette burn, whipping marks, stab wounds and burns," Sammonds said.
Amnesty International has called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, to impose an arms embargo on Syria and to implement an asset freeze against President Bashar Al Assad and his senior associates.
"Taken in the context of the widespread and systematic violations taking place in Syria, we believe that these deaths in custody may include crimes against humanity," said Sammonds.
"The response from the Security Council has been utterly inadequate so far, but it is not too late for them to take firm and legally binding action," he said.