Activists: Al-Assad should be punished for 50,000 dead detainees

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should face justice for tens of thousands of people who have perished in the regime's detention centres, Syrian activists demanded Thursday in Geneva.

"Without justice there is no peace in Syria," rights activist Mazen Darwish said on the sidelines of the indirect peace talks between the government and opposition in the Swiss city.

"Without justice, any political solution would be like a time bomb which can always explode and deteriorate [the] situation and provoke further conflict," he said.

An estimated 50,000 people have died in Syrian prisons since 2011, many of them from torture, said Darwish, who was detained several times and fled the country last year.

Before the anti-regime revolution started five years ago, detention centres were used to torture people to gather information, he said.

Since 2011, there was torture for the sake of torture, "to destroy people, to kill their souls and their bodies," he added.

"We are asking to punish Bashar al-Assad. He is the killer, he gave the green light for crimes," said Hanada al-Refai, a member of the Syrian Organisation of Victims of War.

Al-Refai spent several months in detention. Her brother died after being tortured in a Syrian prison.

The activists pointed to more than 50,000 pictures of dead people in detention facilities that a military photographer known under his pseudonym Caesar smuggled out of the country in 2013.

The images show thousands of emaciated corpses bearing signs of severe abuse.

Rights experts of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in February that Syrian authorities had committed crimes against humanity by killing thousands of detainees, while adding that Islamic State extremists had also carried out such crimes.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said this week he would ask global and regional powers to use their influence on the Syrian conflict parties so that detainees can be released.

Last update: Thu, 17/03/2016 - 17:54
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