Report on Detainees and Enforced Disappearances; March 2016
The politically motivated arrest, detention and torture of Syrians by the Assad government have been relatively well documented for more than forty years. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department have these reports, as well as tens of thousands of photographs that show the corpses of Syrian torture victims. These victims were killed by way of electrocution, starvation, mutilation and other horrific acts. The photo documentation can now serve as strong evidence to bring war crimes charges against the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March, 2011, arbitrary arrest, detention and torture have increased exponentially. International organizations estimate in 2015 that the number of detainees increased from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Since 2011, tens of thousands of Syrians have been tortured to death. Photographs of the dead bodies were smuggled out of Syria by a regime defector and reveal a systematic killing machine. As the conflict in Syria has grown to include more armed factions, including factions affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and extremist groups such as ISIS and Al Nusra Front, the use of detention and torture has been employed by an increasing number of actors.
The need to document the situations and experiences of as many detainees as possible is paramount. Documentation, using internationally recognized best practices for data collection and analysis, is essential to bringing justice for detainees and their families. Perpetrators must be held accountable now and in a future transitional justice process; expert documentation will make this possible. It may even bring a small sense of peace to individuals and families who have experienced human rights violations from which they will only recover with substantial mental, emotional, physical and financial support.
This report has tried to cover a number of detention-related issues including enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions with updated information about former cases.
Cases of enforced disappearances:
Report on Kahlil Maatouk
The following report was written by Raneem Khalil Maatouk, daughter of Khalil Meree Maatouk. Raneem was born on January 1, 1991 in Homs, Syria. On February 1, 2013, Raneem was arrested in her home during a neighborhood-wide security check by Syrian authorities. She was taken to Branch 311 of military intelligence in Kafar Souseh, Damascus and remained there for two months. Following her two month detention in Kafar Souseh, Raneem was transferred to Adra prison. She was released on June 12, 2014. Raneem left Syria in October 2014 and is currently based in Neubrandenburg, Germany.
Khalil Meree Maatouk of Homs City, Syria was born on December 13, 1959. He studied law in Damascus, where he lived with his wife Fadya Saad and their two children Wajed and Raneem, in an area known as Sahnaya. Khalil graduated in 1990 from the University and worked as a lawyer. Soon after, he began his work as a human rights defender. He served as the Director of the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research and Head of the Defense of Prisoners of Conscience in Syria. For twenty years, Khalil worked on cases of peaceful political prisoners.
Khalil’s disappearance happened on October 2, 2012, while with his friend Mohammed Zaza. Due to a debilitating disease of the lungs, Khalil was unable to drive the car and was escorted by Mohammad. They were on their way to Khalil’s office in the city centre of Damascus when security forces took them. There were no witnesses. Although regime security officials denied accusations of holding Khalil and Mohammad, people reported seeing the two men in regime-run detention centers. When I was arrested, the detective responsible for me told me that regime security forces had my father.
For the following three and a half years, no information was released regarding Khalil and Mohammad. The regime continues to deny knowledge of their whereabouts and well-being. We asked and paid money to people who had contact with police officers, but no news was given. We tried to have their names added to the de Mistura mission. Outside Syria, several human rights and legal organizations demanded information and demanded for their release.
We continued to speak about my father and his friend’s case while in Germany. I also spoke to the UN about similar cases that Amnesty reported on, regarding the disappearances of Syrians.
I am Raneem Maatouk, daughter of Khalil Meree Maatouk. My father is the most wonderful person I have ever met. He always sought out nature, as it is the place he is most interested in. My father is known for his beautiful smile. People regularly mention this feature, as he is a man who smiles during even the most difficult circumstances. Always, in his work with prisoners, he treated them as if they were his own children and family. My father was known for his courage, for fearing nothing. He is a strong father with a smile that will never cease.
Report on Mohammed Issam Zaglol
Mohammed Issam Zaglol, a 34 year-old lawyer and human rights activist, was detained in Damascus at the Razi Hospital roadblock on October 10, 2012. He is from Darayya, Greater Damascus. He is married and has three children ages three, ten and twelve years. At the time the violations took place they were ages unborn, seven and nine years.
According to the latest news, he was at the Air Force Intelligence Branch in Meza. His wife heard that he had been moved to Seidnaya, but no one had seen him. It was confirmed that he had been transferred to a field court in September 2014.
The Air Force Intelligence Agency members who took him to a farm at the roadblock were in uniform. They extorted money from him and, after a week, took him to the branch. When they called from the farm on the first day it was about 1 AM. He reported being at a farm with his friends. He said, “Don’t be scared, I’m going to spend the night away from home. Take care of the children.”
Over the next three days they called from his phone and demanded half a million. Afterwards they raised the amount to a million. His wife did not agree, so on the last day they said to her, “Ok, come and bring him some comfortable clothes.” This was said in a sympathetic way, but their intention was to get his wife. They said, “Ok, we will free him for you, just come and get him. It’s better than him being tortured.” Of course she refused. She stayed another month, but the fear never left her and she was forced to move from her house in Darayya to her parent’s home in Damascus. In September 2014 she traveled to Sweden by sea with her three children. They arrived in Sweden in November.
There were accusations put to him when he was undergoing torture, that he was a leader of terrorist gangs in Darayya. He was forced to sign a confession to this. In February 2014, a decision was issued to seize his moveable and immovable property.
This information reached his wife via a former detainee who was with Mohammed Issam. "I don’t know him, but someone connected us so he can tell me this information about my husband. He didn’t even mention his name," she said. No detainee is permitted to read his confession, but during torture they called to him, “Hey what’s-your-name, you’re the head of a gang.” This way the accused knows what he is signing to.
Circumstances of Arrest: Nobody saw his arrest, but he called his wife and told her what happened. He was in his car coming home from the office and they took him at the roadblock. There was definitely violence inside the farm, but he didn’t say any more over the phone.
Mohammad was absolutely prevented from contacting the outside world except for the first three days at the farm, during which time he only called his wife. After that they communicated with two friends of the lawyer Mohammad Issam. They went to give the money and were arrested on the same day. We have not received any news from them. One of their names is Ziad. Mohammad’s wife does not remember the name of the other one.
Mohammed Issam was arrested twice before. The first time he was taken from his in-law’s house and detained in a branch for a week. His wife saw that his body was black and blue. The second time was on August 23, 2011. He was detained for five months at the same branch, in the same place, with the same people. He was tortured severely for two months and lost 50 kg during this time. He was hung from his hands for five days. He didn’t tell us any more than that.
A young man who came out of prison told Mohammad's wife that, on the first day of torture, his face was mutilated. I don’t know him, but he is from my neighborhood. He experienced strange, inhumane and malicious torture. J. H is the first and last person responsible for this torture.
The Detainee's Confessions Used in Court:
Mohammad's confessions were used in the field court. Mohammad’s brother was a former judge and he contacted Issam’s judge who told him that he saw the papers that were sent to the court.
Abdul Aziz Al-Khair is a doctor and nonviolent political activist, born in 1951. He was detained for the first time by the Syrian security forces from February 1, 1992 to 2005. He was detained again on September 20, 2012 on the highway to the Damascus airport. His fate is still unknown.
Nabih Adnan Wardeh is a nonviolent political activist from Hama. Some news said he was in Sednaya prison. Aged 25. He was arrested in the summer of 2012. No one knows which security point arrested him.
Sadaf Abdulhamid Al Hussein is from Boqruss Foqani, Deir ez-Zor. He was arrested with his brother in Zahera Al Jadeeda. They both work in a building block factory.
Subhi Jassem Al Mohammed is an engineer who was arrested along with his friends at his home in Jaramana in 2013. He was born in Al Muhassen, Deir ez-Zor in 1957. He is in Seidnaya prison. News about him has been cut off. He has a son named Fahad Subhi Al Mohammed who is also in detention.
Fahad Subni Al Mohammed has been detained since 2012, when he was arrested at a checkpoint in Damascus. He is a 23-year-old student, majoring in engineering, from Deir Al-Zour province. On April 15, 2012, Fahd was detained for the third time in Damascus and was never heard of until now.
Dr. Abdulaziz Al Hayesh is a dentist from Deir ez- Zor . He was arrested in 2012 from his clinic in Jaramana, Damascus.
Adnan Zeraa’ee is a peaceful activist, actor and screenwriter. He was arrested by the Syrian security forces on Sunday, February 29, 2012 near his home in the Rukn al-Din neighborhood of Damascus.
Musaab Qasem Al Ahmed is from Deraa. The date of his arrest us January 8, 2011.
He is married with four children, ages 14, 7, 5, and 4 years of age. He was never heard of until now.
Mohammed Hassan Al Assser was born in 1980 and is from Crac de Chevaliers, Homs. He was arrested at a checkpoint in Jaramana, Damascus in 2015.
The following three individuals are from one family. Mahmoud Abdo Al Taally was born in 1960 and is from Crac de Chevaliers, Homs. He is married with four children. He was arrested with his daughter and son. Abdo Mahmoud Al Taally was born in 1982 in Crac de Chevaliers, Homs. He was arrested with his father, Mahmoud Abdo Al Taally, in 2014 and is in the Seidnaya prison. Basima Mahmoud Al Taally was born in 1987. She was six months pregnant at the time of her arrest. She was arrested in her home in Crac de Chevaliers, Homs in 2013.
The following five individuals are their relative: (They were arrested after the Talkhalakh agreement. Nothing is known about them.)
Minas Mohammed Abdulrahman is 25 years old and married. She was arrested in 2013, while pregnant, from her home in Crac de Chevaliers, Homs.
Samer Abdulrahman was born in Homs, Crac de Chevaliers and is 32 years old. He was arrested at a checkpoint in Tartous in 2013.
Khaled Mahmoud Al Taally is 45 years old and was arrested in Talkhalakh in 2014. He is married with five children.
Amer Aboud Al Taally is 32 years old and is married with 4 children. He was arrested in Talkhalakh in 2014.
Mohammed Aboud Al Taally was born in 1974. He is married with four children.
Nasser Bondek is 47 years old and from Sahnaya, Damascus. He was an employee in the Arab Advertising Foundation, part of the Ministry of Information. He is married and has children. He was arrested on February 17, 2014 by Military Security Branch 227. Nothing is known about him.
Below are a number of arbitrary detention cases:
Haneidi Alewi Alewi was born in 1949. He was arested in Al Qamishli and is now in Adra prison.
Lana Al Maradni is an IT engineer. She is 32 and unmarried. She was arrested in August 2015 from Barzeh, Damascus, for providing relief aid to children under siege as she was working with UNICEF. She is now under trial in Adra prison. Lana’s mother, B, who requested anonymity and confidentiality of information, told us that she herself was arrested twice. Once was for one week in 1986 and another for four years (1987-1991), when her daughter Lana was only 10 months old.
Detainee’s full name: Adel Barazi (in Arabic: عادل برازي).
Gender and nationality: male, Syrian
Date and place of birth: Salamiyeh, Syria 1984.
Marital status: single
Description of the Arrest:
On August 11, 2012, at around midnight, a group of more than twenty-five persons (the number was estimated by some neighbors who managed to watch the raid from behind curtains) wearing the presidential guard uniform raided the house of Zaki Kordelo. Zaki was living on the first floor of a house in Dummar al-Balad informal settlement, a suburb of Damascus, Syria, with his wife and two children.
Without presenting any kind of official warrant, they asked Zaki about Adel (a university student and employee at a translation agency in Damascus, Syria) who was living in one of the two apartments of the second floor of the same house while his friend Ismael Hammoudeh, also a university student, was living in the adjacent apartment. They went upstairs, broke into Adel’s apartment without knocking and instantly took him. Ismael and Mihyar Kordelo who happened to be there (he was living with his family on the first floor) were also taken. Neighbors said they saw military men beating the three of them while forcing them into a van.
They remained around thirty minutes searching the two apartments upstairs before coming downstairs to search my sister’s apartment. During the search, my sister asked one of them why they had arrested the three young men. He replied, “They are hosting anti-regime activities. They will come back home after a short investigation.” Then, to the dismay of my sister, they took my brother-in-law Zaki as well. When she asked them why, they said, “Nothing serious, we are taking him only to let him bring the belongings back if the other three remained in detention for a while.” They took five laptops (including that of my other nephew who was a high school student) and three desktop computers in addition to more than $5,000 and the two cars of Adel and Zaki.
About one and a half months after their detention, a young man named Haitham from Qudsayya, a Damascus suburb, called Adel’s business cell phone, which was with me at the time. He said he had just been released and had been expecting Adel to answer his call thinking that Adel should have been released before him because, as he said, there were no serious charges against him during the investigation. He met Adel at a detention center in Al-Mazzeh military airport but was moved to another security branch to spend one month before being released. This center was a kind of concentration camp without any type of documentation. Detainees spend short periods there before being referred to the relevant security branch. I tried several times to meet with Haitham in an attempt to collect further information but he looked too intimidated after hearing that Adel was not released. He provided no more details on the phone about the charges against Adel.
A friend working for the Ministry of Communications also managed to trace the number of Adel’s cell phone. He said the phone received signals for two days before being turned silent. The place was near the above-mentioned concentration camp in Al-Mazzeh airport.
Dr. Ali Haidar, the Syrian Minister of Reconciliation was told by the air force security branch, where he tried to inquire about Adel and the other three one month after their detention, that they were, “part of a network receiving foreign funding to support anti-regime activities.” Later Dr. Haidar said he tried several times to get further information about their location, but failed.
A few months after their detention a petition was officially submitted to the Syrian Ministry of Justice inquiring about Adel’s location, but there was no answer.
In mid-February 2016, a man contacted my sister (currently living in Beirut, Lebanon) through Facebook and told her that he had been released from Saidnaya prison in Damascus about 45 days earlier. He claimed he happened to see my brother Adel in the Red Building in that prison for a few minutes and that Adel looked very skinny and completely pale. My sister told a lawyer who is following up on Adel’s case in Syria, but the lawyer reports having checked in Saidnaya prison and getting no evidence that Adel is there.
The family member providing the information:
Ali Barazi (Adel’s brother)
81 #C Charlebank Way
Waltham, MA 02453, USA
Cell phone: +18572631623