On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.. 29 Media Professionals Died Under Torture in Assad's Detention Centers

On June 26 of every year, the world celebrates the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly based on a resolution issued on 12/12/1997.

On this occasion, the Syrian Center for Journalistic Freedoms (SCJF) in the Syrian Journalists Association (SJA) publishes a special report in support of the victims of torture in Syria, especially media professionals who have been subjected to all kinds of torture, cruel and degrading treatment because of their insistence on communicating the truth and revealing what has been happening in Syria since the Syrian revolution started in mid-March 2011.

All the regime prisons and detention centers, security branch detention centers and military prisons, are known, as places where detainees are subjected to various types of torture. All credible human rights reports demonstrate that most, if not all, detainees are brutally tortured by intelligence agents, the police or the army making it impossible to estimate the number of those who were tortured in these places.

In a report entitled, "The Human Slaughterhouse" published on February 07, 2017, Amnesty International revealed that 13,000 civilians were executed in Sednaya prison in various ways. The United States of America recently published several reports showing evidence that the Syrian regime has set up a "crematory" to dispose of the bodies of the detainees killed in Sednaya prison. The American report indicated the possibility that 50 detainees are executed daily in this prison.

For its part, Human Rights Watch confirmed in a report entitled "If the Dead Could Speak... Mass Deaths and Torture in Syria's Detention Facilities" published in 16/12/2015, that "it found evidence of widespread torture, starvation, beatings and diseases in Syrian governmental detention centers."

Human Rights Watch published the report after nine months of investigation during which the organization relied in part on 28,000 pictures taken of deceased in government detention camps. The photographs were leaked by a former Syrian military police photographer, known as Caesar, after he fled from Syria in July 2013. The photographs were published for the first time in January 2014.

In its 90-page report, Human Rights Watch said, "The photographs show at least 6786 detainees who died either in the detention centers or after being transferred from detention centers to a military hospital." According to the report, all these detainees were held "in five of the intelligence service branches in Damascus."

Human Rights Watch considers the thousands photographs of detainees who died under torture inside government prisons as "irrefutable evidence" of the regime's crimes against humanity, and it called for those responsible to be held accountable.

Media professionals were among the most prominent persons to experience violations in Syria as the various parties to the conflict targeted them. However, the regime remains since the first day of the revolution until the present time, the side which committed the most violations against media professionals. In this regard, journalist Hanadi al-Khatib, a member of the Syrian Journalist Association said, "Syrian media professionals formed a link between what was happening inside Syria and the outside world. As the regime prevented foreign journalists from being present in Syria, it was necessary for local Syrian media activity to communicate what was happening."

"When the regime and its supporters were investing a lot in promoting a positive image of the regime internationally, this attempt was damaged by the prominent role Syrian media professionals and journalists played at the start of the revolution. They revealed its [the regime's] practices and communicated a large part of what was happening in the country to the world, so the regime and its supporters especially Russia turned to monitoring journalists and media professionals. Russia used the knowledge and technologies at its disposal to monitor the internet and telephone numbers to reach the people wanted, and those communicating with the outside world. The regime used various methods to reach media professionals and practices many types of torture against those it caught. And sadly this 'battle' has not ended yet."

According to the Syrian Center for Journalistic Freedoms' (SCJF) documentation database and all the human rights networks documenting violations, all the media professionals who were arrested or detained by Syrian government apparatuses were subjected to various forms of torture. Owing to the difficulty of mentioning all cases due to their high number, the SCJF has chosen to mention the most severe cases where the torture led to the death of the victim.

Syrian Journalist Association
Syrian Center for Journalistic Freedoms

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