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Amnesty International Report Accuses Syria of Gross Human Rights Violations

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Amnesty International has accused Syria’s security forces of systematic violations of human rights, including torture and political killings in a report made public today.

The world-wide human rights organization which is concerned specifically with the treatment of political prisoners cited “overwhelming evidence” that thousands of people have been harassed and wrongfully detained by the Syrian security forces without chance of appeal and in some cases, tortured and killed by those forces.

The report stated that “Between January, 1980 and December, 1981 alone. Amnesty International recorded the names of more than 3,500 individuals reported to have been arrested by the security forces. This is not a complete record of the number of arrests during the period but represents only those whose names were brought to the attention of the organization.” There are also reprisals.

FAMILY MEMBERS HELD ‘HOSTAGE’

The report noted, with respect to political dissidents, that “Sometimes when a suspect may have left the country, one or more members of the family have been arrested in order to compel the suspect to return.”

Since early in 1980, “Amnesty International has received the names of several thousand people who have been arrested and detained for various periods under state of emergency procedures. They include individuals held on account of their alleged membership in or support for a variety of organizations or parties, legal or banned, as well as wives or children under the age of 10 held as ‘hostages’ until the husband, elder brother or father is taken into custody,” the report said.

The report is based on a memorandum which Amnesty International submitted to the Syrian government on April 26, 1983 with an accompanying letter to President Hafez Assad. It proposed “positive and constructive discussions” of its findings for which purpose Amnesty International was prepared to send a delegation to Damascus. It requested the Syrian government to respond by June 6, 1983.

NO SYRIAN RESPONSE

No response was forthcoming and Amnesty International offered the Syrian government an opportunity to reply, stating that it would publish the reply jointly with its memorandum if the reply was received by August 1, 1983. There has been no reply from the Syrian authorities.

Amnesty International noted in the introduction to its report that it had published in October, 1979 “a detailed account of human rights violations” in Syria which it summarized in a letter to President Assad at the time. These included the use of emergency legislation to deny political and basic human rights; prolonged imprisonment without trial; abductions of alleged political opponents; torture during interrogation; and use of the death penalty for both political and criminal offenses.

Since publishing its 1979 report on Syria, Amnesty International “has continued to receive news of arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention, torture of detainees, unfair trials, often leading to execution, ‘disappearances’ and extrajudicial executions,” the introduction to its latest report stated.

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