Syrian prison. Photo via: MEMO
AGPS has documented the death of 12 Palestinian refugees under torture in Syria’s state-run dungeons in 2020, bringing the death toll of torture victims in Syrian prisons among the Palestinians of Syria to 629.
In the majority of cases, the victims’ families receive the death reports following years of enforced disappearance.
The 2020 victims are: Fadi Husain Amoura, Shadi Omar Amrein, Ahmad Husain AlSalibi, along with three breakaway rebels Abdul Karim Balhous, Ali AlSabagh, and Mustafa Badawi.
Khaled Mohamed AlHayek, Mohamed Ibrahim Kasem, Abdullah Mohamed Kheir AlSaad, and Basel Nabil Kherma were identified in leaked photos of torture victims.
Four Palestinian refugees—Mohamed Zreiq, Mamdouh Rebhi Khalifa, Fahd AlKhatib, and Iyad Kweidar—died before 2020 but their death was revealed much later.
A few days earlier, Palestinian novelist Ismail Schemale died in Syria’s state-run AlSuweida prison, where he has been held for over 25 years.
According to the Syrian Press Center, the novelist was arrested in 1995 by Syrian security forces near the Syrian borders. He had been locked up for 21 years in Damascus prisons and for five years in Deraa prison, before he was transferred to Suweida prison, where he breathed his last.
Schemale, born in 1953, was sentenced to life by the State Security Court over a book about Iraq’s executed president Saddam Husain and Bashar AlAssad’s father, Hafedh.
The prison administration claimed he died of a heart attack. His family said he contracted coronavirus in prison. He was buried in Tafas town, in Deraa, south of Syria.
AGPS kept record of the secret detention of 1,797 Palestinian refugees in Syrian government prisons.
Over recent years, families of Palestinian refugees tortured to death in Syrian government penitentiaries said they have been made to sign fraudulent documents and certificates claiming that their relatives died of heart attacks.
Horrific photos showing thousands of people who were tortured to death in Syrian government penitentiaries were leaked by a military police photographer, codenamed Caesar.
Affidavits by ex-detainees provided evidence on the involvement of Syrian government officers in harsh torture tactics, including electric shocks, heavy beating using whips and iron sticks, and sexual abuse against Palestinian detainees, in a flagrant violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT).
AGPS estimates the real number to be far higher due to the gag orders slapped by the Syrian government on the detainees’ names and fates, along with the families’ reluctance to report such cases over retaliation concerns.
AGPS continues to urge the Syrian government to disclose the fate of scores of Palestinians held in its lock-ups, release the bodies of those tortured to death, to seriously work on halting harsh torture tactics, launch fact-finding probes into crimes of torture, and to bring those involved in such crimes before courts.