Chilling details about the Syrian detention system revealed by the Association of Detainees and Missing Persons of Sednaya Prison
October 3, 2023 – A groundbreaking report released today by the Association of Detainees and Missing Persons of Sednaya Prison sheds new light on the harrowing roles played by the intelligence apparatus, military police, medical teams, and the administrative personnel at Tishreen Military Hospital in Damascus. The report finds the hospital systematically aided the executions and enforced disappearances of detainees in Syria.
For the first time, the experiences of torture victims and the parties responsible for documenting, assembling, preserving, and ultimately directing their transfer to mass graves are exposed in detail.
The report focuses on a division in Tishreen Hospital, ominously referred to as “Jail,” run by the military police and overseen by Branch 227 of the Military Intelligence apparatus. “Jail” serves as the initial receiving point for sick detainees and the deceased, whether they died at the hospital or in detention facilities. It exposes the ambulance journey from detention centers to the hospital and detainee’s experiences of brutal aggression, frequently resulting in death. Moreover, ailing detainees are often coerced into the grim task of collecting and moving the deceased to the “Jail” entrance, eventually transferring them into vehicles.
The report reveals the involvement of the Forensic Medicine Division at Tishreen Military Hospital in obscuring the genuine causes of detainee deaths. It further details how the division aids the security detachment in handling and abusing the bodies prior to their relocation to mass graves.
All in conjunction with the military police, tasked with documenting and photographing the bodies, compiling essential files for future presentation to the military judiciary, and overseeing the loading of bodies as well as safeguarding the designated transport vehicles.
This revealing report underscores the urgency of international attention and action on the grave human rights abuses within the Syrian detention system.
Diab Serriah, CEO of ADMSP, said: “The report sheds light on the severe torture at Tishreen Military Hospital, pinpoints burial sites, and identifies where detainee files are kept. The Syrian regime can’t feign ignorance about these victims. Their only barrier to transparency is political will. We urge the international community, especially those normalizing relations with Syria, to push for the release of names from the military judiciary and police. This documentation offers a pivotal starting point for the UN’s new institution to uncover the fate of the disappeared.”
The report draws upon 154 interviews with 32 individuals. This included former detainees transferred to the hospital, medical staff who worked there, and personnel from the Military Intelligence Service, military police, political security, and military judiciary. It details the departments and branches tasked with managing unwell detainees and exposes their roles in the system. The report also highlights an auxiliary emergency department, established early in the Syrian Revolution, which segregates ailing detainees from the general hospital population. Access to this department is limited to regime-loyal doctors and medical personnel, and their presence often correlates with the maltreatment or torture of the detainees.
Shadi Haroun, legal documentation and evidence collection program manager at the ADMSP, said: “The acts of extermination and forced disappearances are facets of the regime’s elaborate system of bureaucratic death. Multiple security agencies, officials, and judicial entities are engaged by the regime to manipulate the truth, obscure the actions of perpetrators, obstruct investigations into victims’ allegations, and hide the locations of those who have been forcibly disappeared.”
The report carefully outlines the process of issuing the death certificate for detainees, detailing the collaborative roles of “regime institutions” in documenting the deaths and informing the Civil Registry and General Staff. In its conclusion, the report contrasts the treatment offered by Tishreen Hospital to those affiliated with the authorities and their families, with its dual role as both a healthcare facility and a site for extermination and disappearance of dissenting detainees.
Spokespeople from ADSMP who worked with whistleblowers, survivors, and witnesses are available for media interviews. For media requests: [email protected].