July 3, 2012

Methodology

Human Rights Watch has documented the systematic use of torture by the Syrian authorities since anti-government demonstrations broke out in March 2011.[1] This report is based on more than 200 interviews with former detainees and defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies. The interviews were conducted in Syria and in neighboring countries that host refugees from Syria—Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey—between April 2011 and May 2012.

Interviews were conducted in Arabic or in English using an interpreter. Because of the very real possibility of reprisals we have withheld the names of the victims and witnesses we interviewed, using instead pseudonyms to identify the sources of information.

To establish the location of the detention facilities, we asked victims, witnesses, and defectors to indicate the building where they were held, visited, or served using satellite imagery. Some detainees were not able to identify the facility in which they were held because they were blindfolded. Others, however, were able to do so, either because they were detained close to where they lived and knew the area well, or because they were told by guards and fellow detainees where they were being held, or because they were not blindfolded when they were brought to the facility or released. In a few cases, detainees were asked to come back to the same detention facility for further interrogation upon release.

We also asked former detainees and defectors to describe the facilities in detail and to draw the layout of the floors where they were detained and interrogated. This helped us to corroborate information from different witnesses.

We also asked former detainees and defectors to name those in charge of these detention facilities. In some cases, it was possible to corroborate information through independent interviews with two or more witnesses or public sources. However, given the secrecy surrounding the Syrian intelligence services (mukhabarat), names of commanders and others in authority and command responsibility might be further clarified as more information comes to light.

The detention facilities included in this report are those for which several sources described having witnessed or experienced the use of torture and ill-treatment. We have only provided the location of facilities that were identified by two or more people.

[1] See “Syria: Sexual Assault in Detention,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 15, 2012, http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/06/15/syria-sexual-assault-detention; Human Rights Watch, “They Burned My Heart”: War Crimes in Northern Idlib during Peace Plan Negotiations, May 2012, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/05/02/they-burned-my-heart-0; “Syria, Stop Torture of Children,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 3, 2012, http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/02/03/syria-stop-torture-children; Human Rights Watch, “We Live as in War”: Crackdown on Protesters in the Governorate of Homs, Syria, November 2011, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/11/11/we-live-war-0; Human Rights Watch, “We’ve Never Seen Such Horror”: Crimes against Humanity by Syrian Security Forces, June 2011. http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/06/01/we-ve-never-seen-such-horror-0; “Syria: Rampant Torture of Protesters,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 15, 2011, http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/04/15/syria-rampant-torture-protesters.