[JURIST] Syrian authorities have been maintaining secret detention facilities to hold and torture prisoners, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF; press release] Tuesday. The report, compiled based on accounts from victims and former military and intelligence officials, concludes that Syria has maintained at least 27 secret facilities run by Syrian military or security forces. HRW reported that prisoners are subject to food shortages and overcrowding, as well as a number of torture methods including beatings, hanging by the wrists and mock-executions. HRW called on the UN to sanction Syria and to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder]. In a press release, HRW said that officials at all levels who were involved in the torture should be held responsible:
The individuals who carried out or ordered crimes against humanity bear individual criminal responsibility under international law, as do those in a position of command whose subordinates committed crimes that they were aware of or should have been aware of and failed to prevent or punish. This command responsibility would apply not only to the officials overseeing detention facilities, but also to the heads of intelligence agencies, members of government, and the head of state, President Bashar al-Assad.
The report lists the locations of 27 detention facilities as well as a list of government organizations overseeing the facilities and, when possible, individuals who run them. Because Syria has not ratified the Rome Statute [text] the ICC does not have jurisdiction to intervene and prosecute unless the UN passes a resolution.
Syria has been plagued with violence over the past year and a half, and human rights groups have blamed both the government and anti-government groups for the resulting deaths. On Saturday, the UN-backed Action Group on Syria generated an agreement [JURIST report] designed to aid Syria in ending the violence. Last week, a UN commission said [JURIST report] Syrian forces “may have been responsible” for the killing of more than 100 civilians in Al-Houla last month. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, however, said earlier this month that the government had nothing to do with it [JURIST report] and that “not even monsters” would carry out those attacks. In April, the UN Security Council approved a resolution [JURIST report] to send 300 unarmed soldiers and other humanitarian aid to supervise the implementation of a peace plan. This came after HRW released a report [JURIST report] stating that Syrian security forces had killed more than 100 civilians and opposition fighters in recent attacks. In March, HRW also reported on and linked to videos of Syrian forces rounding up civilians [JURIST report], including women and children, and forcing them to walk in front of soldiers and tanks during troop movements and attacks so that opposition fighters would not shoot at them.