July 3, 2012

General Intelligence Directorate

Director: Ali Mamlouk[135]

  

Branch 285 – Damascus [136]

Officers in charge of facility:

  • Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Ma’la (head of branch, since late 2011)[137]
  • Brig. Gen. Hussam Fendi (head of branch, until late 2011)

Location:

Coordinates: 33.499805N, 36.291313E

Documented Methods of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Beating; beating with objects; electrocution; basat al-reeh; stress position (prolonged standing); sexual abuse (prolonged nudity).[138]

General Comments:

Branch 285 is part of the complex housing the General Intelligence Directorate Administrative Branch. According to a defector from Branch 285, the detention center is located under a garage. There are five floors above ground and two underground. The five floors above the ground are offices. On the underground floors there are interrogation rooms and about 250 solitary confinement cells. There were 17 interrogation rooms, but then the number increased. There are also five large group cells on each floor. The entrance is located on the ground floor. The defector estimated that there might have been 1,500 detainees in Branch 285.[139] A former detainee said that he was kept in a cell measuring about 25 square meters together with 74 other detainees.[140]

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

We detained men there and some children aged 13 and older. I myself probably arrested 40 children who attended demonstrations. There were maybe 1,500 detainees there, coming and going.

They would torture with electricity. They would tie someone on an all-metal military bed and electrocute the bed or put water on the floor and make the person lie on top of it and use the electricity. I would sometimes go into the interrogation rooms, although I was not usually there, and this is where I would see this [torture in general] … [another method was] they would make the detainee, with his hands tied by his head, and a metal pole sticking out of the wall digging into his back, stand on the wall. It causes pain to the back. Sometimes they would leave them naked, and the usual slaps and punches. You would see detainees passing out from this …

The order [to interrogate] is irrelevant. You understand from the people around you what you are supposed to do. No one says, “Why are you shooting.” They say, “Shoot!” If you don’t beat or torture you fear for yourself. One time someone said to me, “Why aren’t you beating him. Hit him.” I didn’t want to defect. My dad told me to. The things he was seeing, I wasn’t seeing [while I was serving].

—Twenty-four-year old Fakhri,who used to serve in Branch 285 before he defected.[141]

***

They didn’t ask any questions, but started torturing me right away. They took me underground, blindfolded and handcuffed. Once I stepped into a room, somebody kicked me from behind. I fell. They started beating me with everything they could find – sticks, cables, their fists, and legs. It lasted for about an hour. Afterwards, they took me to a different room for interrogation.

They asked me why I protested, what did I want. I didn’t tell them anything. An officer ordered a soldier to give me electric shocks. They sat me down. I was still blindfolded, but I could see under the blindfold that they put a clip on my left big toe. I then lost consciousness immediately.

—Twenty-seven-year-old Firas, who was detained on July 7 and spent 23 days in detention in Branch 285.[142]

  

Al-Khattib Branch – Damascus [143]

Location:

Coordinates: 33.520416N, 36.311783E

Documented Methods of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Beating; beating with objects; stress positions; falaqa; electrocution; threats.

General Comments:

The Al-Khattib branch consists of three buildings. At least one of the buildings has an underground detention facility consisting of seven common and four individual cells

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

I was called out for interrogation twice. The interrogation room was on the second floor. Everybody beat us up on the way. We were still blindfolded. During the interrogation I sat on my knees. They were punching and kicking me everywhere. It was more of an accusation than interrogation. On the way back they made me roll down the stairs. If they didn’t like it, they made me do it again.

—Thirty-year-old Bassam, who was detained just before a protest in Damascus in mid-July.[144]

***

All night and day we heard the sounds from men being tortured. One person who helped organizing protests was forced to stand on his knees the entire time in the prison cell. During the investigation they threatened me that they would strip my clothes off and torture me with the dulab. We didn’t know what time it was so we couldn’t know when prayer time was. We couldn’t sleep because of the sounds of torture. The other girl with us in the prison cell told me that they slapped her several times and kicked her in the stomach.

I saw security forces slapping a 12 year old boy in the corridor. They also brought him to say that he saw us at the protest. But the boy swore that he has never seen us before; they believed him. [T]he cells are very close to each other and there was a peephole I used so I could see what was happening outside.

—Twenty-five-year-old Marwa [woman], who was arrested with her friend near a demonstration in Damascus in January 2012.[145]

***

When we arrived at the Al-Khattib branch we saw men blindfolded, being tortured. I saw blood on the floor. They put us in a room and then a woman came and searched us after she ordered us to take off our clothes. We were three girls in the room. The first night there was no interrogation.

We could see the rooms around us because there was a small peephole with a net. We lost track of time. We were able to see how guys were being beaten and interrogated. Some men were not wearing any clothes and they were sitting in a prayer position. It was unbelievable how they were beating them with the electrical batons.

The next day they took us separately to see the interrogator. I was the first one to go. The interrogator asked me again to confess and give the names of my friends. If I did, he said, he would let me go right away. They took the details of my Facebook account and started to search it. He saw that I was friends with one guy from Hama and started asking me questions about him. He asked me how I knew him and what was going on between the two of us. I explained we were only friends. Then he ordered me to tell him the guy’s real name or else he would use the falaqa. Then he asked me if I’m a conservative or liberal, I told him I am neither this nor that. Then he asked me if the guy from Hama belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood. I told him of course he does not.

After he finished we went back to the room with my friend and the other girl. While we were in the room we heard someone screaming from the outside because he was in agonizing pain. He confessed the names of five of his friends. The same guy was brought in to the interrogation room and the interrogator asked him if he saw me at the protest and he said yes. They took the third girl for interrogation; we started hearing a woman screaming. We asked her when she came back but she said it wasn’t her who was screaming. They were beating a child who was at the protest. It was I think the same child that the interrogator brought in and asked if he saw me at the protest. He said he didn’t see us.

While we were there they brought in more than 50 detainees. On Friday they made us fingerprint a piece of paper that said we were in a protest chanting sectarian slogans, that we cursed the President and demanded the overthrow of the regime, and that we carried posters for the FSA. I fingerprinted the paper and two other blank ones.

—Twenty-two-year old Selma [woman], arrested with her friend in Damascus.[146]

  

Latakia Branch[147]

Officers in charge of facility:

  • Brig. Gen. Khudr Khudr[148]

Location:

Coordinates: 35.529572N, 35.803867E

Documented Methods of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Beating; electrocution.

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

I was on my knees in the interrogation room. I felt two people beating me. They were kicking and slapping me. The interrogator said there were witnesses against me saying that I organized demonstrations. He was saying that I encourage people to go out and demonstrate. I said no. They put me to one side and brought in another guy who came and said I paid him to go to demonstrations. I didn’t recognize his voice. I signed a white paper saying I will not go to demonstrations or say Allahu Akbar. I was in detention for 15 days. I was in a solitary cell and didn’t see anyone.

[There were kids there] and they were beating them. I heard them saying, “We don’t know, uncle.” One sounded like he could have been 13 years old.

They used electricity on me in places I can’t talk about. They did it more than once. This was in the interrogation room. Every day there was an interrogation. Their questions were based on my answers. They wanted me to work with them but I refused and that’s when they used the electricity.

—Twenty-eight-year-old Malik, who was detained in Latakia in late April 2011 and kept in detention for 15 days.[149]

  

Aleppo Branch[150]

Location:

Coordinates: 36.211922N, 37.134705E

General Comments:

Underground.

Documented Methods of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Beating; beating with object; falaqa; electrocution; balanco.

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

They took me to the State Security branch where they took my clothes off. My hands were tied with plastic cuffs behind my back. I was naked sitting on my knees. We were underground. They were beating me with their hands, and batons, and kicks. There were also people next to me being beaten.

There was one child who was eight years old who was with us and he was being beaten. I heard the soldiers asking each other, “Where is the kid?” He was in the mosque with us when we were picked up. As they were putting us in the van one of the security officers said to the driver [talking about the boy], “This one is a gift for you today.” I don’t know what happened to him.

They separated us by neighborhood. Those from Hama and Homs got the worst treatment. There was no food there. The next day they took me to [another facility].

—Twenty-three-year-old Suleiman, a student at Aleppo University, who was detained in August 2011 at a mosque.[151]

***

The interrogator accused me of being associated with “terrorists.” I denied it. He also wanted me to confess to being the organizer of demonstrations. I refused. Then another person entered the room and started beating me with a whip. A third person joined. They pushed me on the floor, made me raise my feet, and started beating me on the soles of my feet. After half an hour they took me back to the cell, saying I should think about what to say. They beat me like this two more times before they put me in a car and took me to the Air Force Intelligence branch.

—Nidal, who was detained in Aleppo on July 4, 2011.[152]

  

Idlib Branch[153]

Location:

Coordinates: 35.923065N, 36.633038E

Documented Methods of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Beating; beatings with object; electrocution; pulling nails; stress positions; falaqa, shabeh; threats.

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

They asked me if I went to demonstrations and I said, “Yes”. They asked how many, and I said, “A lot”. They didn’t beat me. They tried to discuss with me. I was blindfolded and there were three interrogators. During the interrogation my hands were tied.

The fourth day I went to interrogation and they started asking me about photos, I said no, I didn’t take photos, and he said they had someone who had informed on me. They started giving me names and I said no I didn’t know the people and they said in that case I would confess in their way.

Four of them were hitting me. They were hitting me on my feet from above, on my toes with a wooden baton. Another was hitting me with an electric baton and the other two were hitting me with their hands. I fell on the ground. I didn’t confess.

Then they tied my hands to a point high above my head. I could stand, but my hands were above my head. I was standing like this for four hours. I had to stand on one leg. When I lowered a foot they beat me. I was blindfolded.

Then they took me to a torture room, to give me electric shocks. They beat me with a whip and electrocuted my toes. I didn’t confess to anything. If you don’t answer a question they shock you. It was like this for six hours every day. On the eleventh day there was a new interrogator who placed me on the ground, tied my hands, and beat me. He had a whip. My eyes were blindfolded. He was sitting on a chair and I was under him. He beat me with the metal whip on the bottom of my feet and on my thighs, and also above … He pulled me by my toes. I thought, I’ve reached the end. He pulled my beard with pliers, pulled my nails. Half of the nail is still gone. Then they took me and hung be in the shabeh position from the door for six or seven hours. They threatened to bring my mom and my younger brothers. I didn’t confess to anything except for going to demonstrations.

—Tarik, who used to photograph demonstrations and was arrested in Idlib on August 27 and spent 24 days in the General Intelligence branch in Idlib.[154]

  

Homs Branch[155]

Officers in charge of facility:

Location:

Coordinates: 34.734963N, 36.698434E

Documented methods of torture and ill-treatment:

Beating; beating with object.

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

Three guards took me to a cell and started beating me on the back, asking me what types of weapon we had and where we got them from. When I asked “what weapons?” they beat me again. Eventually I started agreeing to everything, to save my life. There was no place on my body that had not been beaten. They beat me with batons and cables. I would have agreed to owning a tank.

—Assi, who was arrested in Homs on July 1, 2011, and was kept in detention in the General Intelligence branch in Homs for six days.[157]

***

There were many detainees with me. They were beating us on the head with the butt of their rifles. I couldn’t move my legs for ten days after I was released. I was in a cell measuring three by three meters with 40 detainees. It was so crowded we had to take turns sleeping. They made me fingerprint a document, but I didn’t see what was written on it. I stayed in this place for two months.

—Chafik, who was arrested near the town of Talbiseh in April 2011.[158]

***

They interrogated me the same day that I arrived but they already had all the information from the interrogations in the last branch in front of them. They were asking me questions and hitting me with the electrical cables on my back. They put me in a bigger individual cell. There were around 12 people in it. I stayed there for seven to eight days with nobody interrogating me. There was one guy with me in the cell who suffocated and died. It was very dark and speaking was prohibited. When we couldn’t breathe anymore we would hit on the door really hard until one of the officers opens the door for a couple of minutes and then closes it again.

When they took me for interrogation I saw around 14 men standing in the corridor and officers were hitting them with the back of their guns. They used the balanco … with which they would hang me from the feet and my head down and they would beat me. He asked me the same questions. When he finished they took me to the cell.

—Twenty-five-year-old Ziad, who was detained on June 25 2011 and released on November 12, 2011.[159]

 

[135] Human Rights Watch interview with Fakhri, January 11, 2012. The Council of the European Union imposed travel restrictions and an asset freeze on Ali Mamlouk (also spelled Mamluk) on May 9, 2011, for being “involved in the violence against demonstrators” in Syria. Council Regulation (EU) No 442/2011 of 9 May 2011.

[136] Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who suffered or witnessed torture in this facility.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with Omar, June 11, 2012.

[138] Human Rights Watch Interview with Fakhri, January 11, 2012.

[139] Human Rights Watch Interview with Fakhri, January 11, 2012.

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with Firas, November 3, 2011.

[141] Human Rights Watch Interview with Fakhri, January 11, 2012.

[142] Human Rights Watch interview with Firas, November 3, 2011.

[143] Human Rights Watch interviewed four people who suffered or witnessed torture in this facility.

[144] Human Rights Watch interview with Bassam, November 1, 2011.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with Marwa, January 25, 2012.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview with Selma, January 24, 2012.

[147] Human Rights Watch interviewed two people who suffered or witnessed torture in this facility.

[148] Human Rights Watch interview, June 18, 2012.

[149] Human Rights Watch interview with Malik, January 10, 2012.

[150] Human Rights Watch interviewed two people who suffered or witnessed torture in this facility.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with Suleiman, January 8, 2012.

[152] Human Rights Watch interview with Nidal, January 6, 2012.

[153] Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who suffered or witnessed torture in this facility.

[154] Human Rights Watch interview with Tarik, November 18, 2011.

[155] Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who suffered or witnessed torture in this facility.

[156] Human Rights Watch interview with Sayid, June 20, 2012.

[157] Human Rights Watch interview with Assi, July 26, 2011.

[158] Human Rights Watch interview with Chafik, January 7, 2012.

[159] Human Rights Watch interview with Ziad, January 25, 2012.