Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Amnesty Internation report on Syria: a response from a Syrian dissident (former political prisoner living in Europe)

Of course, the Syrian regime committed and is committing and will continue to commit human rights violations but this is about the Amnesty International report on Syria.  Western human rights organizations--specifically Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch--don't have any credibility among most Arabs about human rights. Their reputation has sunk far lower ever since the Arab uprisings in 2011, where they have been rightly perceived as propaganda arms of Western governments.  So I saw the report yesterday and read the Methodology section and immediately felt that it is not credible: given the mention of unnamed sources (not one of them willing to be identified and the reference to countries which host Syrian opposition groups).  But I am not an expert on those details and specifics.  I don't trust the Syrian regime (and its sponsors) and I don't trust the Syrian rebels and their sponsors in the West and East.  How to judge the report? I asked a well-known Syrian dissident who, due to his leftist underground activities, served years in Syrian jails and was subjected to torture by the regime.  His name is Nizar Nayouf.  He wrote me those responses, and I can't judge the validity of the specific answers but given that there is no scrutiny by Western media to anything coming out which is in sync with Western government propaganda on Syria, I thought it would be useful.  These are my (rush) translations (edited) of his answers: " The white prison is the one on the shape of Mercedes.  It is the main building (the old and big).  As for the red prison, it is the new and small [structure], and contrary to what is contained in the report--which it seems does not distinguish between the two.  The first was inaugurated in 1988 while the second was not inaugurated until 2001.  As for the main White building, it is quite impossible for it to accommodate 10,000 prisoners.  We know it inch by inch, and know how much it can accommodate, at maximum, and assuming you put 30 prisoners in a cell like pickles (or Syrian style pickles, makdus), it can't accommodate more than 4500 prisoners (in fact it was designed for 3000 prisoners). The red building is much smaller and is exclusive to public defendants among the military members (traffic, desertion, various criminal offenses, etc), and can't accommodate more than 1800 prisoners, and even if you put 3 on top of one another.  Yes, paying money to achieve release is true.  I personally documented tense of cases, in which `Ali Haydar (minister of national reconciliation) was the mediator.  The talk of rape is lie on top of lie.  It has no basis in truth.  I challenge show once case, not only now but also from the beginning of the era of Hafidh Al-Asad, whether with women or with men.  Yes, there were rape cases with tools (like raping around ten young women from Communist Action Party, and others, with soft drink bottles.  There is nothing in official papers which prisoners sign something called Sidnaya prison. This is the popular name and not the official name*.   And this reveals the lies about them signing papers indicating that they were "from Sidnaya prison".  Prisoners are not moved from prisons to On-site Courts in Al-Qabun.  The on-site courts move to prisons and hold its trials there, especially now as the Al-Qabun area is targeted by the fire of the rebels and is not safe at all.  As for the length of the trials, it is one minute or two, and that is true since the 1980s till now.  They admit that on-site trials' rulings require the signature of the president or the Minister of Defense and yet they say in another section that execution is approved only by the members of the court and officers with it.  They claim that the second on-site court was formed to accommodate after the crisis, and this is a lie and show ignorance or fabrication.  The on-site court (first and second) have been in existence since 1968, and the Palestinian colonel, Salah ad-Din Al-Ma`ani, was chief of the second on-site courts since the 1980s.  He was the one who was in charge of trial of Muslim Brotherhood, along with Sulayman Al-Khatib.  As for the requirement of confessions by prisoners while they are blindfolded, this was ended by an order from Hafidh Al-Asad in 1998 or 1999, as far as I can remember, but I don't know if this practice was resumed.  There is no representative of the mukhabarat in the Hay'at Al--Mahkamah Al-Maydaniyyah, and thus he does not sign on any ruling, contrary to what is claimed by the report.  There is a mess in what they say that the head of the on-site court is the military prosecutor, (p. 20) and this is real rubbish.  The military prosecutor job is quite different from the chief of the on-site court, and is the chief military prosecutor in the military district administration.  They say that those who are on death row are gathered in the red building (section B).  But they said that the red boiling (p. 12) which is on the shame pf Mercedes, which is in fact the old building, and is thus baseless as I indicated above.  And in the old building there are no cells except solitary confinement cells (one meter by two meters) under ground.  And they are for punishment and is limited in numbers. As for the section B, it is like other sections (10 beds on the right and 10 on the left, three stories over ground).  The thing that most got my attention was "the transfer of the prisoners form the red building and white building in trucks and cars".  When one hears this one thinks that the distance between the two buildings is in kilometers when they are less than 120 meters apart.  The report says (p. 2) that the "commander of the southern front group (firqah) attends the executions.  There is nothing in the Syrian Army which is called "commander of the Southern Group 13 or northern or Western or any other direction.  On page 32, it says that the picture is of the cemetery of  martyrs south of Damascus.  The report says that it was expanded substantially between 2014 and 2016 and that long tunnels were dug in them, implying that they were used to burry those who were executed.  This is silly beyond silly.  In the martyrs cemetery no one can be buried there except the martyrs of the army, even if there is an intercession by Muhammad or Jesus or Hafidh Al-Asad himself.  And contrary to what they say, and the picture damns them, because it shows the increase in the number of victims of the army.  On p. 35, and elsewhere, they talk about forcing "prisoners to rape one another".  This is despicable fabrication which is baseless, and is psychologically impossible under those conditions.  (Is it possible for any person in the world to get an erection to rape another person who is tied and is under torture?)  If the lying witness were too say that he was raped with sticks, i would have believed it because this happened sometimes with public defense prisoners as I indicated above.  On page 43, they is a copy of certificate of death which reveals that it belongs to the Minister of Interior, but the certificate says that death was in "Military Tirshrin Hospital", which belongs to the Ministry of Defense.  This didn't happen, and can't happen.  In cases of death in a military hospital or in detention centers belonging to Military Intelligence, the certificates show "Army or Armed Forces, Directorate of Military Medical Services", or hospital x.  One of the most amusing--if there is amusement in tragedies--contents of the report is what appears on page 44, where it talks about "tens of thousands" (i.e. over 30,000 or at least 18,000) who died under torture or for other reasons in Sidnaya prison in five years but it says: "but we only were able to obtain the names of 375 people only".   What the report says about the kinds of mistreatment and torture and criminality is generally true.  The world has not seen more savage prisons than the 18 prisons of the Iraqi (Saddamist) and Syrian prisons since the times of Nazism and Fascism in WWII.  And anything which is reported in this context can be simply believed.  We have seen it with our own eyes and lived it personally, although there were orders to--to be fair--that the torture of leftists and nationalists be less severe than the savage torture of Islamists."

* I pointed to Nizar this morning that the official Syrian regime statement issued today used the name of Sidnaya prison, and he said that it was the first time as they did not want to use the official name of First Military Prison.