Human Rights Watch report identifies 27 Syrian torture centers

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Human Rights Watch has identified 27 facilities throughout Syria where Syrian intelligence agents have tortured tens of thousands of people detained since the start of the uprising in March 2011, the rights group said in a report released Tuesday.

Based on more than 200 interviews with former detainees, including women and children, and defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies, this report focuses on 27 of these detention facilities. For each facility, most of them with cells and torture chambers and one or several underground floors, we provide the exact location, identify the agencies responsible for operating them, document the type of ill-treatment and torture used, and name, to the extent possible, the individuals running them. The facilities included in this report are those for which multiple witnesses have indicated the same location and provided detailed descriptions about the use of torture. The actual number of such facilities is likely much higher.

In charge of Syria’s network of detention facilities are the country’s four main intelligence agencies, commonly referred to collectively as the mukhabarat.

The 12-page report also identifies the commanders of a dozen of the facilities. (Those identified with command responsibility for torture in the report are likely to become the targets of legal cases in the United States and Europe, an expert from the region suggests.)

The rights group meantime urges the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for an investigation of crimes against humanity–a measure which Russia and China to date have blocked.

World powers meeting in Geneva over the weekend issued a muted communique on Saturday essentially reiterating support for UN envoy Kofi Annan's beleaguered efforts to negotiate a halt to the violence. The United States, France and the UK were unable to persuade Russia or China to endorse tougher language in the draft action plan that would have called for a Syrian political transition that would exclude  key actors, namely Bashar al-Assad.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said under the agreed plan, “Assad will still have to go,” she told reporters in Geneva Saturday.  ”He will never pass the mutual consent test, given the blood on his hands.”

(Map by Human Rights Watch.)

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