Syrian regime's wildfire execution spree 'horrifying', Amnesty says

Syrian regime's wildfire execution spree 'horrifying', Amnesty says
Amnesty International's deputy Middle East director slammed the regime as having a 'callous disregard for the right to life and contempt for international law' after it executed 24 men for allegedly starting wildfires.
2 min read
22 October, 2021
The Syrian regime killed 24 men on Thursday [Getty-file photo]

Rights group Amnesty International on Friday slammed the Syrian regime's decision to execute 24 men charged with starting wildfires that swept the Middle Eastern nation last year.

Three people were killed and thousands of hectares of forest burned when the fires ripped through the country during an exceptionally hot summer. Damascus regime's justice ministry on Thursday called those executed "criminals who carried out terrorist attacks that led to deaths and damage to infrastructure and public property".

"The Syrian state has embarked on a horrifying execution spree which exposes its callous disregard for the right to life and contempt for international law," Amnesty's deputy Middle East director Lynn Maalouf said of Thursday's killings.

"Our research over the years has shown that death sentences are often passed after secret trials without the most basic fair trial guarantees or based on torture-tainted confessions," she said.

Maalouf urged the regime to bring in "a moratorium on the death penalty and work towards its complete abolition", and ensure all criminal procedures and trials follow international standards of fairness.

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Executions are common in war-torn Syria, but the number of those put to death Thursday is larger than usual. Damascus tries to keep executions behind closed doors, Amnesty said.

Another 11 people were handed life sentences while five children and four others were given other jail terms, the ministry said.

In 2017, Amnesty International exposed the Syrian government’s campaign of extrajudicial executions by mass hangings at Saydnaya Prison.

Those killed were sentenced to their fate in what Amnesty called "flagrantly unfair and shambolic 'trials'" of just one to three minutes long, which took place at the Syrian capital's Military Field Court.

Up to 13,000 were covertly killed from 2011 to 2015 at Saydnaya Prison, the majority civilians thought to be against the regime.