Hundreds of Palestinian refugees have been forcibly disappeared in Syria’s state-run penal complexes. (File photo via social media)
Palestinian ex-prisoner Ahmad Khamis was transferred from Palestine Branch 235 to Sednaya military prison, in Rif Dimashq, human rights sources have reported.
Ahmad, who was released from Israeli jails as part of an Israel-Russian swap deal and re-arrested by Syrian security forces, has been enduring an unknown fate in Syrian prisons.
Informed sources told the London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) that Ahmad was arrested in June 2019 and had been subjected to exhaustive interrogation by Syrian intelligence officers at Palestine Branch 235.
The prisoner, a resident of Yarmouk Camp, in Damascus, was released from Israeli jails in early 2019 and was taken back to Syria, in what media sources described as Russian-mediated reciprocation for the repatriation of the body of the long-missing Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel.
Ahmad was kidnapped in April 2005, allegedly after he attempted to creep into an Israeli military base and carry out an anti-occupation operation in the occupied Golan Heights. He was sentenced to 18 years in jail and spent 14 years of the term.
An Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity said at the time that Israel agreed to release the prisoner as a "goodwill gesture" after the return of the remains of Zachary Baumel sometime earlier.
Israel's military announced on 3 April that Baumel's remains, missing since the 1982 Lebanon war, had been returned, bringing to a close a highly sensitive case for Israelis.
The announcement came less than a week before hotly contested Israeli elections, which saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu win a fifth term in office.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a visit by Netanyahu that the remains had been found by the Russian and Syrian armies, in a context where Moscow has a military presence in Syria to support President Bashar AlAssad.
But Syrian Information Minister Imad Sara said on 4 April that Damascus had no knowledge of plans to repatriate the remains, nor was it aware of the details behind the discovery of the body and its subsequent transfer.
Last year, the Association of Detainees and The Missing in Sednaya Prison (ADMSP) stated in its first report, entitled “Sednaya Prison: Factory of death and enforced disappearance in Syria”, that inmates have been tortured to death in the highly-secretive penal complex.
The report, released in Gaziantep in Turkey on November 12, 2019 monitored the procedures and consequences of detention in Sednaya Prison in Syria, which the Assad regime continues to use as a main centre for the detention and enforced disappearance of political detainees, denying them any contact with the outside world and subjecting them to poor conditions that often lead to death.
Every former prisoner interviewed reported to have been beaten with sticks of batons in Sednaya, with 20 forms of torture identified, often resulting in the death of the inmates.
Almost all reported being whipped or beaten while trapped inside a tire, with other forms of torture including being suspended from the arms, electrocution, and the "German chair", which sees inmates tied around a chair with pressure applied.
Sexual abuse has also significantly increased under the Assad regime, with around a third of detainees admitted to have suffered from this form of torture at Sednaya.
Few inmates expect to emerge from Syria's Sednaya prison alive, a place where routine torture and inhumane living conditions are, obviously, all designed to break the hope and dignity of prisoners, according to human rights groups.