Geneva – Two detainees have died in less than one month in the prisons of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), apparently due to torture practices by the militia that controls parts of eastern and northern Syria, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said Tuesday in a statement expressing deep concern.
Euro-Med Monitor received information that a young man, Mustafa Omar Al-Hamdo, died on Saturday, 5 March, under torture, after six years of detention on alleged terrorism charges in SDF prisons in the Al-Hasakah governorate, northern Syria. Similarly, Youssef Muhammad Al-Salama Al-Rashed died on 20 February under torture after being arbitrarily detained during a recent attack ISIS launched on Al-Sina'a prison in Al-Hasakah in late January.
Mustafa Omar Al-Hamdo, 38, was detained in the Alay prison in Qamishli in the Al-Hasakah countryside and served six years of his seven-year sentence before the SDF informed his wife that he died inside. The SDF moved his body—which bore marks of torture—to the Qamishli City Hospital, north of Al-Hasakah. His family was not allowed to bury him in his hometown of Hamdo village, north of Raqqa. He was buried in the village of Sheikh Hassan, south of the M4 international highway, north of Raqqa.
Meanwhile, the SDF kidnapped Youssef Muhammad Al-Salama Al-Rashid, 37—originally displaced from the city of Al-Quriah in the countryside of Deir Ezzor to Al-Hasakah—along with dozens of others late January 2022 during the ISIS attack on the prison Al-Sina’a. At the time, he was kidnapped and disappeared in an unknown location. Twenty days later, he was released but was in critical condition due to severe torture and was immediately transferred to the hospital. He died two days later, according to his family.
The reoccurrence of cases of torture inside SDF prisons exposes a systematic policy aimed at inflicting physical and psychological harm on detainees to intimidate activists and political opponents. Last year alone, three detainees died from torture and ill-treatment in SDF prisons.
In June 2021, Euro-Med Monitor released a report documenting various types of torture practiced against detainees in prisons and detention centers in the Middle East and North Africa. The report indicated that 67 detainees died in SDF prisons, including a child and a woman.
In addition to torture, the SDF practices relentless violations against civilians in its areas of control in northern and eastern Syria, including arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the SDF has detained and disappeared 3,817 people since March 2011, including 658 women and 176 children. The number of those who are still missing is 2,216, including 98 women and 86 children.
Essentially, the SDF has no right to detain most of these civilians, especially those who refuse forced conscription or those with opposing opinions. Yet, the SDF is trying to legitimize these practices through imposing laws that have no legislative or legal basis.
The international community, especially the United States of America, continues to provide political and military support to the SDF despite its violations. All forms of support should be restricted so that those funds and weapons are not used to commit more human rights violations.
Omar Al-Ajlouni, a legal researcher at the Euro-Med Monitor, said: "Incidents of death due to torture in SDF prisons reflect a heinous disregard for human lives, a state of lawlessness, and a lack of respect for human rights in a way that contravenes the rules of international humanitarian law and the relevant international human rights law.”
"Article 7 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirmed that 'No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.'"
An impartial and independent investigation should be opened into these deaths, those involved should be identified and brought to justice, and an independent monitoring mechanism should be established to supervise the conditions of detention inside SDF-run prisons and detention centers.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment should conduct an investigative visit to the SDF-run prisons and report on detention conditions to the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to prevent the aggravation of those illegal practices.