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Amnesty Int'l: Al-Qaeda in Syria kidnaps, tortures, executes prisoners in secret jails

Published time: December 19, 2013 08:38

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Abductions, torture, killing, sharia courts, secret prisons with “inhuman” conditions – that’s what an Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Syria is accused of in the latest report by Amnesty International. Victims included children as young as eight.

According to the Amnesty report, people were seized by masked men, held for weeks on end in solitary confinement at unknown locations and tried by self-styled Islamic sharia courts, which frequently pass death sentences or impose harsh corporal punishment.

Former detainees described being beaten with rubber generator belts or cables, tortured with electric shocks and being forced into a painful stress position known as the "scorpion" in which the detainee's wrists are bound over one shoulder.

All the prisoners detained by the group ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) were held in “cruel and inhuman conditions.”

For instance, two 14-year-olds were among those sentenced to floggings, and one of the fathers was forced to listen to his son's screams of pain as the boy was tortured in a nearby room.

Another example provided by Amnesty concerns a child of about 14 receive a flogging of more than 90 lashes during interrogation at Sadd al-Ba’ath, an ISIS prison in al-Raqqa governorate. Another child of about 14 who ISIS accused of stealing a motorbike repeatedly received severe corporal punishment over several days.

Members of Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra (Reuters / Molhem Barakat)

Some people were held by ISIS for common crimes like theft, while others were detained for smoking, sex outside of marriage, or because they challenged the group's rule or belong to other armed organizations.

Dozens of people have allegedly been detained over the past few months.

"After years in which they were prey to the brutality of (President Bashar al-Assad's) regime, the people of Raqa and Aleppo are now suffering under a new form of tyranny imposed on them by ISIS, in which arbitrary detention, torture and executions have become the order of the day," Philip Luther, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in the report.

Amnesty has called on Turkey and Gulf states that support the mainstream rebels to curb the flow of arms and aid to ISIS and other organizations accused of human rights violations.

“The Turkish government, in particular, should prevent its territory being used by ISIS to bring in arms and recruits to Syria. As well, Gulf states that have voiced support for the armed groups fighting against the Syrian government should take action to prevent arms flows, equipment or other support reaching ISIS in view of its appalling human rights record,” Luther said.

ISIS is notoriously known for orchestrating and conducting scores of suicide bombings and other attacks in Syria and Iraq.

The organization is reported to include big numbers of foreign fighters.

It’s not the first time that the Syrian rebel factions become known for human rights violations and extreme violence. On Wednesday, Russia condemned a massacre in the town of Adra, 20 kilometers north of Damascus, where jihadist rebel groups executed dozens of civilians, including children, beheading them or burning them alive. At least 80 people reportedly were killed.