July 3, 2012

II. Syria’s Detention Facilities

Syria’s network of underground detention facilities are run by the country’s four main intelligence agencies, commonly referred to as the mukhabarat:

  • the Department of Military Intelligence (Shu`bat al-Mukhabarat al-`Askariyya);
  • the Air Force Intelligence Directorate (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Jawiyya).
  • the Political Security Directorate (Idarat al-Amn al-Siyasi); and
  • the General Intelligence Directorate (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-`Amma).

Each of these four agencies maintains central branches in Damascus as well as regional, city, and local branches across the country, in virtually all of which there are underground detention facilities of varying size.

In addition to the large number of detention centers in intelligence branches, the Syrian authorities also established numerous temporary unofficial detention centers in stadiums, schools, hospitals, and on military bases. These temporary detention facilities often served as large collection points where the security forces gathered hundreds of detainees before they screened them and transported them to other detention facilities.

In some cases, intelligence agencies also used some of these newly established detention centres for longer-term detentions, possibly because their own underground detention facilities were full. For example, intelligence agencies assumed control of at least one floor and the basement of the Central Prison in Idlib, subjecting detainees to prolonged detention, interrogations, and torture in that facility.

The following chapters provide information about detention facilities run by these four agencies, including, when available, the names of those in charge, the location, general comments, methods of torture documented by Human Rights Watch, and statements by eyewitnesses and victims.