Military and Counter-Terrorism Courts Used to Punish Peaceful Dissent
"(New York) – The Syrian government is unlawfully holding tens of thousands of political detainees solely on the basis of their peaceful activity, Human Rights Watch said today in opening a campaign to cast light on their fate. Many have been held for long periods and tortured.
The Human Rights Watch campaign, Inside the Black Hole, tells the individual stories of 21 Syrians who have been detained by the government since the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011. All have been detained solely for exercising their rights to free expression and peaceful assemblyor for providing medical care to people injured at protests and shelter to people displaced by the conflict. The government should drop charges against political detainees who are before the military field courts and the Counterterrorism Court set up in July 2012.
“Behind the awful brutality of the fighting in Syria is the unseen abuse of political detainees – arrested, tortured, and even killed for peacefully criticizing the government or helping people in need,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East and North Africa director. “Arbitrary detention and torture have become business as usual for Syrian security forces.”
The systematic use of torture by the government is strong evidence of state policy which would constitute crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said. Concerned governments need to make clear that the Syrian government and those responsible for the abuse will ultimately face justice for their actions.
Government forces have arbitrarily arrested and tortured hospital staff who received wounded protesters, local businessmen who raised money to buy blankets for displaced people, and software developers who advocated free speech on the Internet. Most of the detainees have been men, but women and children have not been spared......"