It’s been nearly four years since the civil war began in Syria, and sadly, civilians continue to suffer from the violence and destruction that devastated the country. Civilians already threatened by two vicious terrorist groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front, also continued to be terrorized by their own government. Military units under the command of Bashar al Assad target the civilian population, committing a range of crimes against the Syrian people, including murder, kidnapping, torture, and rape.
“The regime continues to imprison tens of thousands of individuals, many arbitrarily, and subjects many to torture, sexual violence, inhumane conditions, denial of fair trials, and execution,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Thomas Melia.
It is difficult to accurately gauge how many civilians fill Assad’s prisons, but documentation groups estimate that 215,000 persons have been detained, including 35,000 political prisoners. Many of them have been detained because they attempted to document abuses, and organize their communities in defense of basic human rights.
“Even in the face of this continued onslaught, courageous Syrians continue their pursuit of peace, justice, and fundamental freedoms, and civil society and human rights defenders document abuses and violations committed by both the regime and armed groups,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia.
This is crucial to the country’s future because documentation of human rights abuses will be indispensable for the purposes of reparations, institutional reform, memorialization, evidence collection, and criminal accountability.
The United States supports a number of initiatives focused on transitional justice and atrocity documentation, aimed at bolstering accountability for atrocities committed by all sides, said Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia. This includes the Syria Justice and Accountability Center, which engages in impartial documentation efforts through its database, analysis, training, and networks inside Syria.
“[The United States] will continue to support efforts to pursue a political solution that will result in a united, inclusive, and democratic Syria,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia. “We will also continue to work with partners to end the atrocities and lay a foundation for justice and sustainable peace in Syria.”