This week, the U.S. State Department released photos showing what they say is a crematorium used to burn the bodies of people hanged in Syria. The State Department says as many as 50 detainees are being hanged each day at Saydnaya Military Prison, and that the crematorium is being used to hide evidence of the killings.
In February, Amnesty exposed the Syrian government’s monstrous campaign to crush dissent by executing between 6,000 and 13,000 civilians in secret at Saydnaya prison.
The names of the Syrian prisoners were called out in the middle of the night.
Most of them were civilians who were convicted after “trials” that lasted one to three minutes. They were moved to a cell in the basement of the prison where they were beaten. They were then taken to another building where they were executed.
Blindfolded, they did not know how or when they would die until the noose was placed around their necks.
These horrific details emerged through a year-long investigation by Amnesty exposing how the Syrian government’s chilling policy of extermination turned Saydnaya prison into a human slaughterhouse.
Following interviews with 84 witnesses — including former Saydnaya prison guards, detainees, judges and lawyers Amnesty reported that the mass hangings described above — which took place once or even twice a week between 2011 and 2015 — were authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government.
In these five years, as many as 13,000 people, most of them civilians believed to be opposed to the government, were hanged in secret at Saydnaya.
When confronted with our research in an interview, Syrian President al-Assad lashed out at Amnesty, calling our report “fake news.” Contrary to his denials, we have strong reason to believe this murderous routine is ongoing.
We cannot let these crimes against humanity continue to go unpunished.
By Margaret Huang Executive Director, Amnesty International USA
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