Shocking New Evidence Reveals Extreme Brutality Against Syria Protestors and Their Families

September 26, 2011

By Mahsa Maleki, Syria Country Specialist for Amnesty USA

Syria protest
Amnesty International has recorded 103 death in custody cases in Syria since March © Private

Six months of violence against the peaceful protesters: thousands dead, hundreds detained, and there’s still no resolution from the Security Council on Syria.

With the parade of world leaders now appearing at the 66th UN General Assembly, it’s time for the UN to step up and take any concrete action to stop the violence in Syria and demand accountability for the victims.

Amnesty International revealed new evidence of the extreme brutality being meted out to Syrian protesters and their families as a woman’s mutilated body is found. Eighteen-year-old Zainab al-Hosni of Homs is the first woman known to have died in custody during Syria’s recent unrest.

On July 27, Zeinab was abducted by plain-clothes individuals believed to be members of the security force with the intention of pressuring her 27-year-old brother Mohammad Deeb at-Hosni to stop his anti-regime activities. On Sept. 10, Mohammad was arrested, and three days later his mother was summoned by security forces to pick up his dead body from a military hospital. The body showed signs of torture including bruising on the back and cigarette burns on the body. He had been shot in the right arm, right leg, and three times in the chest.

While at the hospital morgue, their mother by chance came across Zeinab’s body. She had been decapitated, her arms cut off, and skin removed. Their mother was said to have been forced to sign a document saying that Zainab and Mohammad had been kidnapped and killed by an armed gang.

Zeinab’s family is among many other families who have had to receive the bodies of their loved ones. In our new report, Deadly Detention in Syria, we document 88 cases of people dying while in detention. In the majority of the cases there was evidence that torture or other ill-treatment caused or contributed to the deaths.

Since the release of our report on August 31st, at least 15 other people have died while in detention. The crimes behind the high number of reported deaths in custody of suspected opponents of the regime, taken in the context of other crimes and human rights violations committed against civilians elsewhere in Syria, amount to crimes against humanity. Our interactive webpage, Eyes on Syria, maps individual cases of Syrians who died in detention.

In the past six-month the Syrian government has opened fire on peaceful protesters, besieged towns, and shelled residential areas. To this day, at least 2,200 people have been killed and thousands detained.  Please urge the members of Security Council that it is time for them to show leadership and to use their international influence to help stop the bloodshed in Syria and ensure accountability for abuses committed there.

Update, Oct 5:  On October 4, 2011, Syrian TV aired reports suggesting that Zeinab al-Hosni is alive. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued a joint statement explaining that their previous statements were based on information provided by Zeinab’s family who had confirmed that they had identified her body at a military hospital and that they subsequently held a funeral. It now appears that her family misidentified the body that was presented to them due to the extensive damage to the body. The family has confirmed that the woman who appeared on Syrian television is indeed Zeinab al-Hosni. The identity of the murdered female victim buried by al-Hosni family remains unknown and the two organizations have called for an independent investigation to reveal her identity. To read the full statement please visit here.