Amnesty Says Scores Dead Following Arrests in Syria

As the anti-government protests in Syria and the regime’s brutal crackdown on them continues, Amnesty International released a report on Tuesday recording a significant increase in deaths following arrest in Syria—including graphic descriptions of torture. According to an Amnesty press release on the report, entitled “Deadly detention: Deaths in custody amid popular protest in Syria,” at least 88 people are believed to have died following their arrest between April and mid-August of this year. That’s a huge escalation from recent years: almost an 1800% increase on the around five deaths per year Amnesty typically records in Syria.

The victims are all believed to have been detained in connection with the pro-reform protests. The victims, all male, include at least 10 children, some of whom were as young as 13-years-old.

“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,” Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International’s researcher on Syria, said in the press release.

Furthermore, Amnesty reported horrific and graphic injuries on some of the corpses that indicate torture. These include blunt force injuries, burns, whip marks and possible electric shock marks. According to Amnesty, there is evidence that torture or other ill-treatment played a part in at least 52 of the fatalities.

“The accounts of torture we have received are horrific. We believe the Syrian government to be systematically persecuting its own people on a vast scale,” said Sammonds.

The “Deadly detention” report itself noted that while Amnesty has not been able to do first-hand on-the-ground research in Syria this year, they complied information from a variety of sources from both inside and outside Syria, ranging from victims’ relatives to human rights activists. According to the press release, their collection of information included seeing video clips of 45 of the cases.

Overall, the death toll in Syria since the mass protests began in March has apparently exceeded 1,800, according to a list of names compiled by Amnesty International of those reported to have died.

Amnesty took time in the press release to highlight their call upon the United Nations Security Council to take further-reaching steps against Syria, including an arms embargo and referring the situation to the International Criminal Court.

“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 in the press release. “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.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, August 31, 2011)