Amnesty International releases powerful video of Syria's 'Human Slaughterhouse' - 'We were sleeping on top of the sound of people choking to death.'
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The Syrian government executed an estimated 13,000 Saydnaya prisoners from a notorious Syrian prison near Damascus in what Amnesty International has dubbed a "policy of extermination."
Syria held a mass hanging in which thousands were murdered (Amnesty International).
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Amnesty International, investigations into Saydnaya Prison have led officials to call out to the U.N. Security Council in hopes of bringing an end to the ongoing human rights violations.
Over the last five years alone, Amnesty International has calculated about 13,000 people were killed under the cover of darkness - most of whom were innocent civilians.
A report titled Human Slaughterhouse: Mass hangings and extermination at Saydnaya prison, Syria revealed prisoners are often tortured, starved and forced to live in inhumane conditions.
The military-run facility is one of Syria's largest detention centers and the U.N. estimates over 400,000 have been killed since Assad began his "policy of extermination."
Lynn Maalouf, the Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International's Beirut Regional office, explained: "The horrors depicted in this report reveal a hidden, monstrous campaign, authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government, aimed at crushing any form of dissent within the Syrian population.
"We demand that the Syrian authorities immediately cease extrajudicial executions and torture and inhuman treatment at Saydnaya Prison and in all other governments across Syria. Russia and Iran, the government's closest allies, must press for an end to these murderous detention policies.
"The upcoming Syria peace talks in Geneva cannot ignore these findings. Ending these atrocities in Syrian government prisons must be put on the agenda. The UN must immediately carry out an independent investigation into the crimes being committed at Saydnaya and demand access for independent monitors to all places of detention."
An investigation was conducted from December 2015 through December 2016 involving interviews with 84 first-hand witnesses, including former Saydnaya Prison guards and officials, detainees, judges and lawyers. Those who were interviewed also include international experts on Syria's detention policies.
Repeated reports of the inhumane living conditions within the prison led investigators to believe the conditions were intended to ultimately kill the detainees, few of whom have ever escaped.
Prisoners reported they were raped and some were forced to rape others. They were tortured, beaten, degraded and many died from their wounds. Some were left with life-long problems and some were rendered disabled.
Cell floors are reportedly covered in blood and puss weeping from prisoner wounds. Those who die from the abuse are collected each morning at 9 o'clock.
Former prisoner, who was called "Nader" to protect his identity, recalled: "Every day there would be two or three dead people in our wing...I remember the guard would ask how many we had. He would say, 'Room number one - how many? Room number two - how many?' and on and on...There was one time that...the guards came to us, room by room, and beat us on the head, chest and neck. Thirteen people from our wing died that day."
Food and water are never guaranteed and is often delivered to cells by guards who scatter it on the filthy floors. Those who eventually leave the prison were reported to weight about half their initial weight.
Nicolette Waldman, an Amnesty International researcher, told CNN: "They have been actually dying in massive numbers as a result of repeated torture in combination with the systematic deprivation of food, water, medicine and medical care."
Investigators also revealed the mass hangings occurred mostly Mondays and Wednesdays, in the middle of the night.
Prisoners were told they were being transferred to civilian prisons but were really moved to cells in the basement, where they were severely beaten before being loaded in a truck to a different location where gallows await them.
From the moment they leave their cells, they are blindfolded and are left to wonder what is happening until they feel the nooses placed around their necks.
Aljazeera added a former judge's testimony. The former judge witnessed the executions and reported: "They kept them [hanging] there for 10 to 15 minutes. For the young ones, their weight wouldn't kill them. The officers' assistants would pull them down and break their necks."
The horrifying report only gets worse. Detainees in cells above the basement reported strange sounds in the night.
"If you put your ears on the floor, you could hear the sound of a kind of gurgling. This would last around 10 minutes... We were sleeping on top of the sound of people choking to death. This was normal for me then," former military officer Hamid, who was arrested in 2011, admitted.
Once the prisoners, many of whom were innocent, were killed, their bodies were loaded onto trucks to be buried in mass graves. None of their families were ever notified.
The majority of detainees are civilians who were arrested in 2011, at the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Those who were sentenced to death were given shoddy trials by "a so-called Military Field Court."
One former judge explained: "The judge will ask the name of the detainee and whether he committed the crime. Whether the answer is a yes or a no, he will be convicted ... This court has no relation with the rule of law. This is not a court."
To make the already disgusting report even worse, officials discovered Saydnaya has its own "special rules."
Prisoners are forced to remain completely silent at all times and must assume specific positions when guards enter their cells. Should any prisoner dare look at a guard, they are executed.
Amnesty International called for the U.N. Security Council to take "immediate and urgent action" to stop the prison from continuing its inhumane practices.
Maalouf stated: "A firm decision must be made by the UN Security Council. It cannot turn a blind eye to these horrible crimes and must pass a resolution demanding that the Syrian government opens up its prison for international monitors.
"The UN Human Rights Council must immediately demand an independent investigation into these grave violations of international law. The cold blooded killing of thousands of defenceless prisoners, along with the carefully crafted and systematic programmes of psychological and physical torture that are in place inside Saydnaya Prison cannot be allowed to continue. Those responsible for these heinous crimes must be brought to justice."
Waldman added: "I want to be very clear that these practices are unacceptable, and they have to stop. They have to be brought to an end. Mass killings of civilians and extermination so that people are dying of starvation, of illness, of treatable diseases must stop, and Russia has a very special responsibility to uphold peace and security in the world.
"We are calling on them to use their influence with the Syrian authorities to push for access to independent monitors to all of the prisons in Syria run by the government where these atrocities are taking place so the perpetrators can be held to account."
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