BEIRUT — Amnesty International accused Syria’s government on Tuesday of hanging up to 13,000 people at a notorious prison over five years in a “policy of extermination,” two weeks before planned peace talks.
Titled “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass hanging and extermination at Saydnaya prison,” Amnesty’s damning report is based on interviews with 84 witnesses, including guards, detainees and judges.
It found that at least once a week between 2011 and 2015, up to 50 people were taken out of their prison cells for arbitrary trials, beaten, then hanged “in the middle of the night and in total secrecy.”
“Throughout this process, they remain blindfolded. They do not know when or how they will die until the noose was placed around their necks,” the report said.
Most of the victims were civilians believed to be opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
“They kept them (hanging) there for 10 to 15 minutes,” a former judge who witnessed the executions said.
“For the young ones, their weight wouldn’t kill them. The officers’ assistants would pull them down and break their necks,” he said.
Amnesty said the mass executions amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity, but were likely still taking place.
The group’s report comes just two weeks before a new round of talks is due to take place in Switzerland aimed at putting an end to nearly six years of civil war./AFP