Syrian Legal Platform

Death Became a Daily Thing

Today is Human Rights Day. LDHR marks this day by highlighting the plight and life-threatening conditions faced by detainees in Syrian detention centers through the release of its latest report “Death Became a Daily Thing: The Deliberate and Systematic Failure to Provide for Health and Medical Care in Syrian Detention Centers”.

“Over a hundred thousand Syrians have been arrested since 2011. Some estimate a much higher figure. The fate of these detainees has been left in the hands of the detention authorities, largely unchecked and without any protection. The health and welfare of these detainees are under immediate threat. The infliction of torture, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, and sexual violence is already well documented and reported. A conservative estimate for deaths in government detention facilities between 2011-2015 stood at 17,723. However, despite this and despite desperate pleas from the families of detainees and civil society, the issue of detentions in Syria has not been addressed at the international level. No progress has been made in seeking the release or protection of political prisoners. A review of LDHR’s medical expert reports evidences a detention system operating in flagrant violation of minimal standards of basic health, sanitation, and hygiene. Every day, if not every hour, people detained in these facilities are dying – from torture, but also from malnutrition, disease, squalor, and life-threatening conditions, without any medical intervention. Medical staff in Syrian government detention centers are either active in the abuse and mistreatment of detainees or fail to provide any protective medical response which would save lives. The inhuman nature, level and breadth of the violence, subhuman conditions which attack the basis prerequisites for health (such as food, water, light and air) and the almost total lack of medical care in detention centers further corroborates the existence of a government policy and intent aimed at the terrorization and elimination of political opponents.”

LDHR urges all parties, but the Syrian regime in particular 

– to immediately and unconditionally comply with binding United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2139, 2165, 2191, 2258, 2332 by the “immediate release of all arbitrarily detained persons starting with women and children, as well as sick, wounded and elderly people and including UN and humanitarian personnel and journalists”, recognizing that each additional day spent in detention means the infliction of more torture, sexual violence and subhuman conditions, and constitutes an imminent threat to life. The release of women and children should be prioritized. 

– to immediately provide unrestricted access for independent monitors and doctors to any location where any person is being deprived of their liberty, to prevent further deaths and abuse, and to provide life-saving medical care for detainees;

– to take immediate steps to allow access to independent medical care for all detainees, particularly those with any physical or psychological health needs; 

– to ensure the immediate safe transfer to international medical professional and humanitarian providers for any detainees whose health is in critical conditions (physically or psychologically);

– to take immediate steps to comply with the UN Standard Minimum Treatment of Prisoners, and to ensure the vital determinants to health and adequate medical care are immediately provided to all detainees in all places of detention; 

– to stop all forms of torture, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, and sexual violence and harassment against detainees, and to investigate and punish all those found responsible, including those with command responsibility for the detention personnel.

LDHR presses all States and all in the international community to fulfil their obligations and the moral imperative:

to use their influence […] to advance […] the early release of any arbitrarily detained persons, including women and children. 

to take all possible steps to keep this issue at the top of the agenda until all political detainees are safely released or their remains recovered and identified; 

to insist of safe and immediate access into all places of detention for an international multi-disciplinary monitoring and response team which would include doctors, psychiatrists and health workers to immediate intervene to provide the basic determinants of health and triage for immediate medical and psychological interventions where needed; 

to act to finally stop and prevent further international crimes in Syria but taking all possible steps to end impunity, by providing a comprehensive judicial adjudication mechanism to try those responsible for these crimes, and to send a clear message that there will be accountability for such actions.

LDHR would like to thank Marc Nelson, an artist and activist making great efforts to bring the crimes against Syrian people to the public’s attention. Marc kindly allowed LDHR to use his art to illustrate this report.