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‘State policy of torture’ in Syria draws heightened criticism

Published: July 3, 2012 | 9:17 am
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Global disgust over the Syrian regime’s purported torture of citizens reached a pinnacle Tuesday, with a human rights group and a foreign diplomat decrying new reports of the government’s atrocities.
According to a report published Tuesday by Human Rights Watch, the Syrian regime has been carrying out “a state policy of torture” as part of an effort to crush dissent.
The group identified 27 detention centers across Syria where torture was systematically inflicted on prisoners, according to testimonies from more than 200 former prisoners and security officers who defected.
“It is a network of torture chambers that the authorities are using to intimidate and punish people who dare to oppose the government,” said Ole Solvang, a Human Rights Watch researcher.
In some cases, the report said, the government tortured children.
“They electrocuted me on my stomach, with a prod. I fell unconscious,” said Hossam, a 13-year-old boy who told Human Rights Watch he was detained in the town of Tal Kalakh in May 2011. “When they interrogated me the second time, they beat me and electrocuted me again. The third time, they had some pliers and they pulled out my toenail.”
CNN has also interviewed more than a dozen Syrians who described beatings, electrocution and horribly crowded conditions in prison cells.
The Syrian government has routinely denied allegations of abuses. Recently, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations walked out of a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in protest after the Syrian regime was accused of committing crimes against humanity.
But British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he welcomed the Human Rights Watch report.
“It highlights the horror of what is happening. The scale of the barbaric acts that are being carried out by the regime against the population is appalling,” Hague said in a statement Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the government launched new attacks on cities across the country Tuesday, opposition activists said.
“The regime’s army waged a raid-and-arrest campaign … amid a crippling siege,” in a neighborhood of Hama, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.
Fresh shelling also landed in the besieged city of Homs, the opposition group said.
Another opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Monday that the town of Kafar Shams had been under siege for nine days, with all utilities cut off.
The carnage in Syria has spiked in the past two days, with at least 109 people killed Sunday and 114 people killed Monday, opposition activists said.
CNN cannot independently confirm the reports of casualties or violence because Syria restricts access by international journalists.

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