At least 30,000 Syrians 'murdered' in regime's notorious Sednaya prison, new harrowing report reveals

At least 30,000 Syrians 'murdered' in regime's notorious Sednaya prison, new harrowing report reveals
In a new report published by the Association of Detainees and the Missing of Sednaya Prison, the chain of command in the Syrian prison were revealed, where systemic and widespread torture lead to the death of 30,000 death between 2011 and 2018.
4 min read
03 October, 2022
Sednaya Prison in Syria, among others, has witnessed innumerable accounts of torture carried out against Syrian civilians throughout the country's civil war since 2011 [Getty]

The chain of command at the Syrian regime's Sednaya Military Prison has been unveiled in a new report published on Monday, where an estimated 30,000 detainees have been killed under torture or executed.

For the first time ever, the Association of Detainees and the Missing of Sednaya Prison (ADMSP) revealed those responsible for atrocities at the notorious detention centre and are linked to the Syrian regime’s Military Field Court and Syrian Intelligence Branch 227 and Branch 293.

ADMSP said that Sednaya’s ties to official courts and institutions of Bashar al-Assad’s regime have permitted it to maintain a veneer of legal legitimacy despite the heinous crimes that have taken place there.

Torture, often fatal for the detainee, is routine in the prison, according to survivors of the dungeon, defectors of the administration, and human rights groups.

The ADMSP is an organisation seeking to fight for freedom and justice for Syrian detainees, particularly those detained in the Syrian regime-run detention facility, where human rights abuses and mass executions have been documented on a massive scale.

Following extensive research and testimonies, the NGO estimates that around 30,000 detainees either died or were executed between 2011 and 2018 at the prison.

These mostly political prisoners had been subject to repeated and arbitrary forms of abuse - including sickening beatings, extreme torture, starvation, and a lack of medical care. 

Some detainees were subjected to a 'welcome party', which entailed hours-worth of torture lasting an entire day, in order to terrify them and convey the power of guards on their arrival.

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 The executed victims were sentenced to death by military field courts in trials often lasting just minutes, in violation of international law.

Additionally, a further 500 victims were reported to have been "legally" executed between 2018 and 2021, according to survivor testimony in the published report.

Moreover, it was revealed that the Tishreen Military Hospital played an active role in disposing of detainees' bodies by storing them in meat trucks before being buried in mass graves.

The report also confirmed the existence of 'salt chambers', created with the purpose of storing the victims’ dead bodies for up to 48 hours before being sent away.

The victims’ families never received the bodies of their loved ones and often news of their fate.

The report further details the prison's layout and structure, which enabled further sickening crimes against detainees. Prisoners are packed into tiny cells, routinely tortured, and denied proper food or medical care. 

Sednaya prison, which was established in 1987, is located atop a hill situated in the mountainous region north of Damascus and is protected by three levels of security with hundreds of guards stationed at various points of the prison.

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Meanwhile, prison staff known as the Syrian army’s Third Division protect the outer walls of the prison.

The detention centre, which is as big as 184 football stadiums, is surrounded by two minefields - one comprising of anti-personnel mines and the other anti-tank munitions.

The prison staff monitor incoming and outgoing lines of communication in a bid to suppress any form of communication with the outside world that might uncover the regime's horrifying crimes.

The report named the likes of Ibrahim Suleiman, Talaat Mahfoud and Mahmoud Ma'tuq as some of the prison's most brutal directors, who allegedly oversaw the horrors committed against the detainees.

The report's findings are the result of testimonies given by former detainees who survived their ordeals at Sednaya Military Prison, while a number of defecting prison staff also provided evidence to ADMSP.

The Sednaya Military Prison has been described by Amnesty International as a human slaughterhouse due to its role in torturing and killing Syrian civilians throughout the country’s devastating civil war.

Most of those detained are suspected to have taken part in peaceful protests or activism. At the same the regime jailed protesters, it released Islamist fighters from its cells, activists claim.

ADMSP further stated that the structure of Sednaya Prison has been formulated to eliminate dissidents of the Syrian regime, all the while maintaining "a cloak of legal legitimacy".

The Syrian regime has detained at least 100,000 Syrians since the civil war began in 2011, often without charges and without informing their families of their whereabouts. Many are feared dead.

Rights organisations estimate that 500,000 Syrians have been killed since the peaceful uprising against Bashar Al-Assad began in 2011, displacing millions of Syrians and prompting scores more to flee.