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Syria: New anti-torture law “whitewashes” decades of human rights violations

Responding to the news that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has enacted a new anti-torture law that fails to address a decade of torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions carried out by Syria’s security forces, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“While we welcome any legislative steps towards complying with internationally recognized anti-torture conventions, the new law effectively whitewashes decades of state-sanctioned human rights violations.

“It fails to offer redress to past victims of torture, include any protection measures for witnesses or survivors of torture, nor does it state whether torture survivors, or in the event of their death, their families would receive compensation. Crucially, it fails to mention any measures that could be taken to prevent torture from occurring in detention centres and prisons in the future.”

“Amnesty International calls on the Syrian authorities to urgently allow independent monitors to access the country’s notorious detention centres – where torture leading to death has been taking place at a mass scale for years – as a first step to signalling any genuine intent to curtail the practice of torture by state agents. Furthermore, the anti-torture law must align with international human rights law – and that means as a first step, ensuring that the perpetrators of torture, cruel, inhuman or other ill-treatment face justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to death penalty.”

Background

The anti-torture law was enacted by Presidential Decree on 30 March after being discussed in Syria’s parliament for the first time on 28 March. 

Amnesty International has previously documented inhuman conditions across Syria’s prisons. The widespread and systematic use of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, which has led to deaths in detention, and extrajudicial executions following sham trials, amount to crimes against humanity.