Photo by Vedat Xhymshiti/AFP/Getty Images
A new report from Human Rights Watch out Tuesday identifies 27 detention facilities in Syria and details the arrest, detention, and torture of an estimated tens of thousands of people in the country since the beginning of the March 2011 uprisings against president Bashar al-Assad.
The report, readable in full here, is based on interviews with more than 200 former detainees, as well as defectors from Syrian military and intelligence forces. The organization has established more than 20 different methods of torture used in the facilities, including holding detainees in stress positions, beatings, sexual assault, burning with car battery acid, puling fingernails, and mock executions. The detention facilities are run by a cluster of Syrian intelligence organizations known as mukhabarat.
In related news, Assad has said he regrets that his forces shot down a Turkish aircraft, the New York Times reports. “I say 100 percent, I wish we did not shoot it down," a Turkish newspaper quotes him as saying. Apparently, his forces thought the plane was from Israel: “The plane used the corridor used by the Israeli planes three times in the past,” he said. “We learned it was Turkish after we shot it down.”
Syria shot down the plane on June 22. Although Syria insists the plane was inside its airspace, Turkey says it was struck while in international airspace after briefly going into Syria, the Associated Press said.
The information in the HRW report comes at a time when few journalists have been able to independently verify the situation on the ground in the country, including reports of mass killings and torture, as the Syrian government severely limits access to the country.
Based on the information in the report, HRW also provides a list of recommendations to the U.N., which has struggled to agree on any actionable plan for the country. Efforts by the U.N. to take effective diplomatic action against Syria have been largely stalled by Syrian allies Russia and China, who have previously vetoed Security Council resolutions. As CNN notes, Syria has responded to previous allegations of torture with flat denials.
Last weekend, Russia insisted that Assad be included in a transitional political plan for the country, ultimately approved by an international conference. That plan was met with outspoken protest from many Syrian opposition groups, who refuse to negotiate with the current regime.
An estimated 110 people have died in two days in Syria, the AFP reports, as Syrian troops continue to clash with rebels in Homs.