The Syrian Justice Ministry on Tuesday denied the findings of an Amnesty International report that said the government executed up to 13,000 prisoners through mass hangings at a military jail near Damascus. The government said the report was completely “devoid of truth”, reported Reuters.
The justice ministry said the report was based on “personal emotions” to achieve certain political goals and were not real evidence. It was an attempt to harm Syria’s reputation on the international stage, the ministry added.
According to the report, an average of 20-50 people were hanged each week at the Sednaya military prison in Damascus and about 5,000 to 13,000 people were executed between 2011 and 2015. Many other detainees were “repeatedly tortured and deprived of food, water and medical care”, the report said.
The report covers the period between the uprising in Syria in March 2011 until December 2015. As many as 84 witnesses including former guards, judges, detainees and lawyers were interviewed for the report. A majority of those hanged were civilians who had opposed the government, the report said.
The report also alleged that the executions were carried out secretly and the bodies were buried in mass graves outside of Damascus. The report called for further investigations by the United Nations.
The executions were “authorised at the highest levels of the Syrian government”, Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for research at Amnesty, Beirut, told AP, adding that the government aimed at “crushing any form of dissent” among the public.
Last year, the United Nations had released a report with similar accusations. “Amnesty’s findings are almost completely in-line with our ‘Death in Detention’ paper,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry in Syria, told Reuters.