Collated by an independent investigative agency formed in 2012, they chronicle years of crushing violence against detainees in the war-torn nation.
In graphic detail, messages between commanders and senior officials describe the torture of rebels and dissenters by interrogators, who would beat them with cables and sticks, sexually assault them and give them electric shocks.
The Commission for International Justice and Accountability claims to have more than a million documents, half of which have already been smuggled out of Syria, and has submitted a legal brief linking the systematic torture and murder of tens of thousands of Syrians directly to President Bashar al-Assad.
The New Yorker has been to CIJA’s headquarters to examine the case, and seen its mind-blowing evidence. The organisation is determined to prosecute the Syrian president in the International Criminal Court.
Activists detained for anti-government protest were reportedly beaten until they bled, given shocks and hung from the ceiling.Source:istock
The eastern city of Deir Ezzor is known for rich oil fields and a “corrupt judicial system, long delays in adjudicating lawsuits, nepotism, and the resort to bribery to restore rights,” according to the head of the National Security Bureau in a 2011 memo.
Brigadier General Jameh, from the city’s military-intelligence branch, was desperate to stop the escalating violence as protesters burned police stations and vehicles, warning his subordinates in messages seen by the New Yorker not to indiscriminately shoot people or lock them up.
In May, he attacked interrogators for giving detainees electric shocks, putting out cigarettes on them, beating them “on all parts of the body, in a disgusting manner,” and sodomising them by forcing them to sit on plastic bottles.
Just months later, the CIJA found evidence detainees at his military-intelligence centre were beaten with fists, cables, and sticks, stuffed into car tyres and beaten until their feet bled, soaked in water and given electric shocks.
Many were abused until they urinated blood or were unconscious with broken bones and their teeth fell out. They were beaten to death.
Jameh was personally involved in many of the sessions.
An independent agency has been collecting what it says are damning records since 2012.Source:AP
By August 2011, Syria’s shadowy Central Crisis Management Cell revealed that they were concerned about “laxness” and poor coordination from the authorities dealing with insubordinates. They arranged for regular raids on opposition activists and critics of Syria in foreign media. Their coordination messages paint a clear picture of how orders for what happened to people like Mazen al-Hamada came all the way from the top.
Al-Hamada was one such activist, arrested while smuggling baby formula to a woman in Damascus in March 2012 and bundled into a car.
On the journey, he was told he’d be executed, he told the New Yorker. He was stripped to his underwear, beaten and placed in a hangar packed with 170 people at the notorious air force intelligence detention centre at al-Mezzeh Military Airport.
“You’re rotting,” Hamada said. “There’s no air, there’s no sunlight. Your nails are really long, because you can’t cut them. So when you scratch yourself you tear your skin off.”
Unable to wash or change, the prisoners developed sores all over their bodies. They drank water from the toilets and died from starvation, suffocation and disease.
“People went crazy,” he added. “People would lose their memories, people would lose their minds.”
He was then tortured for information on his fellow opposition activists. They stubbed out cigarettes on him, shocked him with wires, and handcuffed him to a pipe so his feet dangled above the ground.
“I felt like the handcuffs were sawing my hands off,” he said. “I stayed for more than half an hour, and then started screaming. Because I kept screaming, they shoved a military boot in my mouth and said, ‘Bite on this so you don’t scream.’”
They cracked his ribs and tightened a clamp on his penis, threatening to cut it off. Eventually, he confessed to everything they wanted — from carrying a Kalashnikov to murder.
Investigators are determined Syria’s leaders won’t get away with what they claim are monumental human rights abuses.Source:AFP
The methods Hamada described were typical, according to the New Yorker. The CIJA not only gathered documents but interviewed hundreds of witnesses who were tortured or kept in inhumane conditions without charge for months or years.
At least one interrogator reportedly begged a detainee to admit to a crime so he could stop hurting him.
Coerced confessions gave the government the superficial appearance of justification, it claims.
A year after he was detained, Hamada began urinating blood and was taken to notorious military Hospital 601. He was terrified. The few inmates he’d met who had returned from there called it a “slaughterhouse.”
When he went to the bathroom, after being beaten by the nurses and called a terrorist, he found the floor covered with battered, emaciated corpses with no eyes.
“Pee on top of the bodies,” the guard told him.
At night, a soldier who called himself Azrael, after the angel of death, would come in and murder prisoners by horrific means such as beheading.
Hamada was lucky. In August 2013, he was taken back to court, admitted to insulting the president at protests, and was freed. The CIJA has collected 55,000 photos from the hospital corroborating his story.
He returned to Deir Ezzor to find it in a state of full-scale war, with rebel groups fighting corrupt warlords, jihadi factions and their government. He fled to Europe.
The fighting continues and Assad seems safe, for now. But those sifting through these shocking files are confident their evidence will soon be impossible for the courts to ignore.