Amnesty International reports that as many as 13,000 people have been executed in secrecy in the Syrian Saydnaya prison.
The human rights group claims that these mass killings were conducted on a weekly basis from September 2011 to December 2015.
Most of the victims were killed by starvation and torture, says Amnesty, adding that the bodies were later on dumped in two mass graves outside Damascus either midnight or early Tuesday mornings. The practice continued for as long as five years, reports BBC.
The report titled Human Slaughterhouse gives details of how the state facilitated human abuse in the wake of an enraging Syrian Civil War. The war has resulted in the death of about 400,000 people and displaced almost the entire country’s population.
The group’s information was gathered from former guards and detainees and alleges that most of the killings took place inside Saydnaya prison. Most of the sources no longer have access to the prison.
This prison had two segments, the “red building” for detaining civilians and “white building” that booked military detainees. According to two former guards of the buildings, hangings were conducted in the white building basement with the victims blindfolded. The study conducted a 12-month research, interviewing a judge and 31 men formerly held in the two buildings.
According to witnesses, 20 to 50 people were being executed within a span of one to two weeks. Their bodies were then transferred to Tishreen military hospital to register the cause of death as respiratory disorder or heart failure. After having interfered with the evidence, they were buried in the military land of Nahja, located south of Damascus.
The author of the report, Nicolette Waldman, estimated the people hanged to range from 5,000 to 13,000.
The interviewed judge – a former military judge – said that the court has no rule of law. Whether the arrested said “yes” or “no” they were convicted.
The report explains that on the day of the hangings, the victims would be informed of the unfortunate incidences they will undergo. They would be told that they will be moved to a civilian prison, beaten in its basement cell for up to three hours and then hanged in the middle of the night.
The Judge Explains
In his account, the judge who saw the killings said that the victims were kept hanging for 10 to 15 minutes. Some victims didn’t die immediately due to their light weight thus the guards had to pull them down and break their necks.
A former military officer said that “If you put your ears on the floor, you could hear the sound of a kind of gurgling. This would last around 10 minutes… We were sleeping on top of the sound of people choking to death. This was normal for me then.”
One detainee, ‘Sameer’, accounts that the beating was intense to the extent he wished his legs were cut instead of being beaten more and more.
Amnesty International has no evidence to prove the executions continued after December 2015 but neither can they confidently say that they were stopped.