U.N. rights chief condemns torture in Syrian jails

Navi Pillay called on both the Syrian regime and armed opposition groups to stop the use of ‘torture and ill-treatment’ immediately

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The United Nation’s human rights chief on Monday condemned the frequent use of torture in prisons by both opposition groups and regime forces.

“In armed conflict, torture constitutes a war crime. When it is used in a systematic or widespread manner, which is almost certainly the case in Syria, it also amounts to a crime against humanity,” said Navi Pillay, the organization’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, the U.N. reported.

Pillay called on the both sides to stop the torture immediately.

“I urge the Government and armed opposition groups in Syria to immediately halt the use of torture and ill-treatment, and to release all those who have been arbitrarily detained in conditions that clearly breach international human rights standards. Those detained must be treated humanely.”

Eyewitness accounts

The remarks coincide with Pillay’s office releasing a report containing accounts from victims of witnesses of torture.

“Upon arrival at a detention facility, detainees are routinely beaten and humiliated for several hours by the guards in what has come to be known as the ‘reception party’,” the report said, adding that men, women and children were all targets.

“Many are activists - often students - as well as lawyers, medical personnel and humanitarian workers, and some just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Western-backed Syrian opposition called on the United States to give “an appropriate response” to what it said was genocide committed by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, the country’s second city, Reuters reported.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry dated April 8, the head of Syria’s National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, also rejected accusations that rebels had targeted Christians and desecrated holy sites in the province of Latakia, on the Mediterranean coast.

“In the last weeks, the Assad regime has been conducting a particularly intense bombing campaign on Aleppo ... with crude barrel bombs, indiscriminately killing and maiming scores of civilians ... destroying entire neighbourhoods and causing a new mass exodus of refugees,” Jarba said in the letter.

(With Reuters)