Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tortured and killed: Hamza al-Khateeb, age 13

The mutilation and death in custody of a 13-year-old child has sparked further furious protests in Syrian city of Daraa.


Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand

".....In the hands of President Bashar al-Assad's security forces, however, Hamza found no such compassion, his humanity degraded to nothing more than a lump of flesh to beat, burn, torture and defile, until the screaming stopped at last.

Arrested during a protest in Saida, 10km east of Daraa, on April 29, Hamza's body was returned to his family on Tuesday 24th May, horribly mutilated.

The child had spent nearly a month in the custody of Syrian security, and when they finally returned his corpse it bore the scars of brutal torture: Lacerations, bruises and burns to his feet, elbows, face and knees, consistent with the use of electric shock devices and of being whipped with cable, both techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch as being used in Syrian prisons during the bloody three-month crackdown on protestors.

Hamza's eyes were swollen and black and there were identical bullet wounds where he had apparently been shot through both arms, the bullets tearing a hole in his sides and lodging in his belly.

On Hamza's chest was a deep, dark burn mark. His neck was broken and his penis cut off.

"Where are the human rights committees? Where is the International Criminal Court?" asks the voice of the man inspecting Hamza's body on a video uploaded to YouTube.

"A month had passed by with his family not knowing where he was, or if or when he would be released. He was released to his family as a corpse. Upon examining his body, the signs of torture are very clear."

The original clip has since been removed, but a version with Hamza's castrated genitals blurred is still running [Note: this video is extremely graphic].

"When Hamza's mother came to see the body she was only shown his face," said the cousin, who was present at the time.

"We tried to tell the father not to look, but he pulled the blanket back. When he saw Hamza's body he fainted. People ran to help him and some started filming - it was chaos.".......

'A crime against humanity'

Hamza's father, Ali al-Khateeb, wanted to press charges against the army and security forces, said Hamza's cousin. Instead, Ali and his wife were visited by the secret police and threatened.

"They said: 'Enough of what has happened because of you already. You know what would happen if we heard you had spoken to the media,'" said Hamza's mother, clearly terrified as she spoke to the local activist, refusing to give further details on the circumstances of her son's arrest or death.

Hamza's father was briefly detained late Saturday afternoon, said his wife, after the secret police demanded he tell state media that Hamza was killed by armed Salafists, Sunni Muslim extremists, which the regime has claimed are driving the popular uprising.

"The father was asked to go to the security branch for half an hour so they could tell him their point of view about Hamza," said the cousin. "He was well treated."

Torture in Syrian prisons, long known as some of the worst in the world, is now "rampant" according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

"When you have mass execution and torture it rises to the level of a crime against humanity. In Syria, it appears clear that this has become widespread and systematic," said Ricken Patel, director of Avaaz, which has been documenting human rights abuses in the country....."

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