July 3, 2012

Political Security Directorate

Director: Mohamed Dib Zeitun[114]

  

Mezzeh area – Damascus [115]

Location:

Coordinates: 33.498932N, 36.239601E

General Comments:

Former detainees told Human Rights Watch that the Political Security branch in the Mezzeh area contained detention facilities underground. One detainee said that he and 25-30 other detainees were held in a cell with the number 21 on the door.

Documented Methods of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Beating; shabeh; electrocution; threats to family; burning with cigarettes.

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

An officer accused me of taking money from Lebanon to bring down the regime. After calling an assistant they beat me up, took me to a room close to where they torture people and hung me up with a long chain handcuffed to my wrists so that only my toes touched the floor. They kept me hanging like this for three hours.

Back in the cell I couldn’t sleep because it was close to the torture room. They were beating people and using electric sticks. I could hear the screams.

The next day they hung me up again. Many people were hanging like this – in the shabeh position. Every 30 to 45 minutes somebody came to hit me. There were six or seven people hanging like this at any given time.

Everybody was beaten up. Some could not bear the pain so they collapsed and lost consciousness. They didn’t concentrate on me. When I fell asleep they threw water on me demanding that I stand up.

On the third day, the officer threatened to bring my family and torture them. One prisoner was beaten up in front of me. He confessed. The officer told the others to take him back to the cell and treat him well. Then two of his assistants held my legs up and the officer used a stick to beat me on the legs and on the rest of the body. They extinguished cigarettes on my hands and feet. They also placed me in front of a wall. The agents would have fun by banging my head into the wall or hitting me in the groin.

On the fourth day, they transferred me from an individual to a regular cell. Newcomers were always put in individual cells. We were not allowed to talk. We would just sit next to each other in silence. When officers came near the cell, everybody was supposed to stand up, even those who were sleeping. If not, they would beat us up.

Some had black spots from electrocution. Some couldn’t walk to the bathroom on their own. Some who had written slogans had their hands burned with cigarettes. My hands were burned as well. I eventually confessed, but was then beaten again for the crimes that I confessed to.

—Farid, who was detained for 25 days.[116]

  

Idlib Branch [117]

Officers in charge of facility:

  • Atef Najib (head of branch; former head of Political Security in Daraa) [118]

Location:

Coordinates: 35.926529N, 36.629993E

Documented Methods of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Beating; beating with object; electrocution; basat al-reeh.

General Comments:

The Political Security Branch in Idlib has a detention facility underground, consisting of five common cells on the left side of a corridor and single cells and a restroom for the officers on the right side. There is an investigation room on the same floor. Two former detainees said independently that detainees were tortured with electricity in the corridor. [119]

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

They brought us to the head of the branch, Atef Najib, the one who was transferred from Daraa. He asked our names and then told the others that they should take us down and “show us their hospitality.”

They took us one floor underground and started beating us with cables and electric sticks. They put us on a rack device. They kept beating and insulting us until eight o’clock in the morning. My body was all black from beatings. At that point they didn’t ask any questions.

They put 25 of us in a cell measuring four by four meters. Five of them were arrested with me. Every time they opened the door they would beat us.

—Sultan, who was detained on May 15 on the road between Latakia and Jisr al-Shughour.[120]

***

One of the detainees in our cell was taken out for interrogation because they found the name of an activist on his phone. They tortured him with the flying carpet and beat him with cables. They electrocuted him six or seven times on different parts of his body. He was unconscious when they brought him back to the room. He was peeing blood for three days. When we were released he still stayed in the prison.

—Jalal, who was arrested on June 25 from his village in the Idlib governorate and spent 45 days in detention, including 19 days in the Political Security branch in Idlib. [121]

They brought me to the interrogation room along the same corridor. They tied my hands, but didn’t blindfold me. One officer was sitting at a desk and another was standing next to him. He addressed me in a very insulting way. When I didn’t answer he got up and just kicked under the chin with his foot. I fell and he kicked me again. They accused me of participating in the uprising, but I said that I just went to the funeral of the martyrs. He said that they are not martyrs, but pigs. He called someone else and told him to “teach me” because I called the dead protestors martyrs.

He took me to the corridor, tied me to the door, and started giving me electric shocks. I couldn’t tell what they used to give me the shocks. I stayed there for an hour. They gave me shocks about every five minutes, each one lasting for a few seconds. My head was just hanging. I couldn’t hold it up. I passed out, but then they poured cold water on me.

When they released my hands I fell on my face. I couldn’t stand up so they started kicking me. I ended up crawling back into the interrogation room. The interrogator asked me whether I still thought of the dead as martyrs. I answered that I didn’t anymore and that they are just dead persons.

—Abdallah who was detained for one day in mid-April after having attended a funeral in Jisr al-Shughour.[122]

  

Homs Branch [123]

Officers in charge of facility:

  • Brig. Gen. Hussam Luqa (Since April 2012)[124]
  • Brig. Gen. Nasr Al-Ali (Until April 2012, Al-Ali then assumed the position of head of Daraa branch)[125]

Location:

Coordinates: 34.721644N, 36.708581E

Documented Methods of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Beating; beating with object; shabeh; dulab; electrocution; balanco.

General Comments:

The Political Security branch in Homs has a detention facility on the second underground floor. According to one former detainee, the facility consists of nine individual cells and an interrogation room and torture room on the same floor.[126]

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

They pushed me down the stairs to the basement where the interrogation room is. They took my ID and locked me in a two [meters] by one [meter] cell. There were about nine individual cells. After two hours I went [was taken] to see the interrogator. He had a paper in front of him that said that I sent videos to Al Jazeera. I denied [it]. As a result, I stayed for seven days suspended from my hands. They let me down three times per day to eat. They used to beat me just for fun.

The basement was two floors underground. In front of the interrogation room there is another room that had all the torture machines. They accused me of inciting protests and possession of weapons. They tortured me several times. I saw one of the machines that looked like a table with straps to strap you on. There is one from under the back and other ones on the legs. After seven days, they moved me into solidarity confinement. The next day they put me in the tire. They put both legs in the tire and then they push my head inside the tire. I didn’t confess so they put me three times on the electricity chair. They would torture me and put be back in the cell.

After 16 days, they transferred me from the cell to a room 20 by 15 meters that had around 60 people. Every day they release [some] and bring new people in.

—Twenty-five-year-old Ziad, who was detained on June 25, 2011 and released on November 12, 2011.[127]

  

Latakia Branch [128]

Officers in charge of facility:

  • Brig. Gen. Taha Taha[129]

Location:

Coordinates: 35.527367N, 35.804268E

Documented Methods of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Beating; sexual abuse; threats; dulab; shabeh; basat al-reeh.

General Comments:

The Political Security branch in Latakia has an underground detention facility with an interrogation room on the same floor.

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

They started beating us (40 persons) before they asked any questions. We were blindfolded and handcuffed. They kicked us with their boots and knocked out several of my teeth. They placed us in single cells and then took us out for hours at the time to beat us.

With the unmarried guys they made them strip and beat them on their private parts.

After about three days they put us in cells, seven people in each. We were all naked, so when they came back we could see that they were beaten and they were crying and peeing blood.

The cell was located four flights of stairs underground. It was cold and wet. The food was a piece of bread with some yoghurt. We stayed in that cell for five days, naked all the time.

They interrogated me four times. Every time they tortured me, with punches, kicks, and hitting me with cables. They put me in a tire. They wanted me to confess to carrying arms and being a member of armed gangs.

They forced me to fingerprint some paper, but I’m illiterate so I don’t know what it said.

Afterwards I was hiding in a private hospital. I had several broken ribs so I couldn’t move. They released me in connection with the presidential pardon.

—Ghalib, who was arrested in mid-April after a protest in Latakia.[130]

***

They undressed me, tied my hands behind my back and hit me on my private parts. They clipped my hands to a metal pipe and lifted me so that my feet hardly touched the floor. They kept me like that for two days. When they released me I couldn’t stand, my feet were completely swollen.

I then spent five days in a single cell with six other people. After that 15 officers took me to a separate room. They were cursing my mother and sister and threatened to rape me. They put me on a flying carpet – I was lying on my back, tied to a board, and they lifted my head and legs. All this time I was undressed. They wrapped wires around my penis and turned on the electricity. I could just hear it buzzing. They did this maybe five times for about 10 seconds. I passed out.

When I regained consciousness they were pushing my legs and hands into a tire. My entire body was blue from beatings.

—Twenty-three-year-old Amer, who was arrested in March 2011 in Idlib province.[131]

  

Daraa Branch[132]

Officers in charge of facility:

  • Brig. Gen. Nasr Al-Ali (Since April 2012. Used to be head of the Political Security Branch in Homs)[133]

Location:

Coordinates: 32.630235N, 36.108123E

Documented methods of torture and ill-treatment:

Beating.

  

Statements by victims and eyewitnesses:

They put me in a car and drove me to the Political Security branch in Daraa. There were about 50 other detainees there as well [who had just arrived]. I know because they listed all the names. Then they pushed us all on the floor with our faces down. We stayed like this for several hours. Anybody walking by would hit us and step on us. Then the placed us in a large vehicle and drove us to Damascus. Inside the vehicle, they used electric stun-guns on us if we talked.

—Jihad, who was arrested in Daraa on April 4, 2011.[134]

 

[114] The Council of the European Union imposed travel restrictions and an asset freeze on Mohamed Dib Zeitun (also spelled Zaytun and Zeitoun) on May 9, 2011, for being “involved in the violence against demonstrators” in Syria. Council Regulation (EU) No 442/2011 of 9 May 2011.

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

[116] Human Rights Watch interview with Farid, October 27, 2011.

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

[118] Human Rights Watch interview with Sultan, January 7, 2012.

[119] Human Rights Watch interview with Wadih, January 7, 2012; Abdallah, January 8, 2012.

[120] Human Rights Watch interview with Sultan, January 7, 2012.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with Jalal, January 8, 2012.

[122] Human Rights Watch interview with Abdallah, January 8, 2012.

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

[124] Human Rights Watch interview with Hamad, April 25, 2012; Omar, June 11, 2012.

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

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

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

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

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with Ghalib, January 7, 2012; Salim, January 12, 2012.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with Ghalib, January 7, 2012.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with Amer, January 10, 2012.

[132] Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who suffered or witnessed torture and ill-treatment in this branch.

[133] Human Rights Watch interview with Sayid, by phone, June 20, 2012.

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with Jihad, May 22, 2011.