According to a new report by the global human rights organization Amnesty International, approximately 13,000 prisoners being held at Saydnaya Military Prison in Syria were secretly executed by hanging over the course of four years between 2001 and 2015. The guards at Saydnaya prison, known to detainees as “the slaughterhouse,” have routinely tortured and consistently deprived prisoners of food, water, and medical care.
Amnesty International claims that prisoners set to be executed were tortured before being brought to an “execution room,” where unsuspecting blindfolded victims were unaware they were about to be hung on one of the many nooses that lined the walls. Amnesty says the executions were for those who dissented against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the country’s civil war and they have no reason to believe the abuse has stopped. The Syrian Justice Ministry denied the report and called it “devoid of truth.”
“Amnesty International’s research shows that the murder, torture, enforced disappearance and extermination carried out at Saydnaya since 2011 have been perpetrated as part of an attack against the civilian population that has been widespread, as well as systematic, and carried out in furtherance of state policy,” Amnesty said on their website.
The group, who has been investigating the human rights violations in Syria aggressively, also disclosed that prison guards refer to the mass executions as “the party,” and detailed the torture that prisoners endure before they are killed.
“On the day of the execution, which prison guards refer to as ‘the party,’ they collect those who will be executed from their cells in the afternoon,” Amnesty said. “The authorities inform the detainees they will be transferred to one of the civilian prisons, which many believe have much better conditions. They are instead brought to a cell in the basement of the building, where they are severely beaten.”
Amnesty went into detail about the process of the execution.
“The execution room at Saydnaya was expanded after June 2012, so that more people could be executed at once,” they explained. “Nooses line the wall. On entry to the room, the victims are blindfolded, and do not know that they are about to be killed. They are then asked to place their fingerprints on statements documenting their death. Finally they are taken, still blindfolded, to concrete platforms, and hanged.”
The prisoners would not know about the execution until the moment they were hanged. Detainees in adjacent rooms could hear the sound of the hangings.
The deputy director at Amnesty’s regional office in Beirut, Lynn Maalouf, said that there is no reason to believe the horrible actions against human rights have stopped and assumes there are thousands more than have been killed since 2015.
Abu Muhammed, a former guard at the military prison, said “Saydnaya is the end of life – the end of humanity.”