Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Syria: Detainees Hidden From International Monitors

Arab League Should Demand Access to All Sites Used for Detention

December 27, 2011

"(New York) – Syrian authorities have transferred perhaps hundreds of detainees to off-limits military sites to hide them from Arab League monitors now in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The Arab League should insist on full access to all Syrian sites used for detention, consistent with its agreement with the Syrian government.

The Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moallem, was quoted in the Independent on December 21, 2011, saying that the international monitors would be free to move around the country “under the protection” of the government but would not be permitted to visit certain “sensitive” military sites.
“Syria has shown it will stop at nothing to undermine independent monitoring of its crackdown,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Syria’s subterfuge makes it essential for the Arab League to draw clear lines regarding access to detainees, and be willing to speak out when those lines are crossed.”

A Syrian security officer in Homs told Human Rights Watch that after the government signed the Arab League protocol on December 19 he received orders from his prison director to assist with an irregular detainee transfer. He estimated that on December 21 and 22 approximately 400 to 600 detainees were moved out of his detention facility to other places of detention.

“The transfers happened in installments,” the official said. “Some detainees were moved in civilian jeeps and some in cargo trucks. My role was inside the prison, gathering the detainees and putting them in the cars. My orders from the prison director were to move the important detainees out.”
He said that officials who accompanied the detainees out of the facility told him they were being taken to a military missile factory in Zaidal, just outside of Homs....."

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