Syria running islands of torture centres: HRW
New York: Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in a report released on Tuesday that Syrian intelligence agencies are running torture centers across the country where detainees are beaten with batons and cables, burned with acid, sexually assaulted, and their fingernails torn out.
The New York-based rights group identified 27 detention centers which are being used by the security agencies since President Bashar al-Assad's government began a crackdown in March 2011 on pro-democracy protesters trying to oust him.
HRW prepared its report after conducting more than 200 interviews with people who said they were tortured, including a 31-year-old man who was detained in the Idlib area in June and made to undress.
"Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. The staples in the ears were the most painful," the man told the New York-based rights group.
"They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again. They tortured me like this three times over three days," he said.
The report found that tens of thousands of people had been detained by the Department of Military Intelligence, the Political Security Directorate, the General Intelligence Directorate, and the Air Force Intelligence Directorate.
Human Rights Watch documented more than 20 torture methods that "clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity."
The group called for the U.N. Security Council to refer the issue of Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to adopt targeted sanctions against officials carrying out abuse.
Russia - an ally of Syria - and China have already vetoed two council resolutions that condemned Damascus and threatened it with sanctions and French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters on Monday that reaching a Security Council consensus to refer Syria to the ICC would be difficult.
Meanwhile, UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay has reiterated her position that the issue of Syria's conflict should be referred to the ICC in The Hague because crimes against humanity and other war crimes may have been committed.