Assad regime seized $1.5 bn worth of assets from Syrian detainees since 2011: report
The Syrian regime has seized an estimated $1.5 billion worth of assets from detainees since the start of the country's ongoing revolution in 2011, according to a new report by the Association of Detainees and the Missing at Sednaya Prison (ADMSP).
Detainees were stripped of their land, property, businesses, jewellery and other material assets following official orders, the ADMSP's report said.
ASMSP - whose mission is to "reveal the truth about... those detained on the basis of political opinions or activities" - based their estimate of $1.5 billion on information from an in-depth survey of 105 detainees who had their assets confiscated after being arrested.
The staggering value of the assets was likely to be higher as most were seized unofficially, the association said.
A "vast majority" of the detainees were unlawfully arrested for their activism in opposing President Bashar al-Assad.
The ongoing conflict has seen Assad's regime arbitrarily detain hundreds of thousands of civilians - 132,667 of whom are still under arrest or forcibly disappeared, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
The war has also led to the demise of the Syrian currency, as many civilians across the war-torn country struggle to make ends meet, making the blow of seized assets even harder for those affected.
"When I got out [of prison] I found out I’d lost even more than I realised... the regime had confiscated everything we owned [including] our properties [and] our businesses," one activist - who spoke on the condition of anonymity for his safety - said in the report.
Former detainees also said they were forced to sign convictions of terrorism against them - for taking part in protests - while blindfolded, without realising they were signing away their civil rights and everything they owned, according to the Guardian.
ADMSP believe the "cash-strapped" regime began to seize detainees' assets for their own gain amid the financial crisis, "in order to stay afloat and combat the impact of sanctions" placed on Assad by the international community following his violent crackdown on protesters.
"It is clear that the Syrian regime is using confiscation of assets as a tool to punish detainees even long after they have left detention...it allows the regime to deliberately crush detainees' spirits by stripping them of their assets... while also allowing the regime to profit from the exploitation of its own people," Diab Serrih, the co-founder of ADMSP told The New Arab.
"These findings must spur the international community to push for the release of all those who have been unlawfully detained... as well as halting the regime’s callous policy of confiscating detainee assets," Serrih said, noting the report served as a reminder of the "brutality and horror" present in Syria's detention system.