Widespread torture in Arab region: Syria in lead.. Euro-Med Monitor report

Euro Med Monitor

Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on the governments of Arab countries to stop all forms of torture against prisoners and detainees, stressing that most governments and conflicting parties in the Middle East and North Africa, especially the Syrian regime, use torture as a systematic policy inside prisons and detention centers.

Most governments in the Arab region widely practice torture, amid near absence of effective accountability and oversight mechanisms, and they sometimes cover up these illegal practices, said the Geneva-based Euro-Med Monitor in a report issued on Saturday morning on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Most Arab countries prohibit torture in theory, but it is a cornerstone of their repressive system and is used frequently against their political opponents or human rights defenders.

Anas Jerjawi, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Operations Officer

The Euro-Med Monitor report, entitled “I can’t bear it anymore” highlighted the methods and forms of torture in the Arab region, based on 32 testimonies of former detainees and families of current detainees in several countries where torture practices were documented.

Based on 32 testimonies of former detainees and families of current detainees, the Euro-Med Monitor report, entitled “I Can’t take it anymore”, highlighted the methods and forms of torture practiced in different countries of the Arab region.

It documented torture practices in nine Middle Eastern countries; Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Israel and the Palestinian territories, in addition to five others in North Africa; Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Sudan.

Some countries that suffer from internal conflicts, such as Syria, witness widespread torture practices among all parties to the conflict with each taking their part in responsibility.

Torture practices are common in countries that witness internal conflicts, such as Syria, said the report, adding that conflicting parties are all disproportionately responsible.

Euro-Med Monitor pointed out that impunity for torture perpetrators is a huge challenge. Although most Arab countries have agreed to international standards for investigation, prosecution and accountability of torture and ill-treatment, the number of torture prosecutions in the region does not reflect the actual number of torture cases, since investigations related to torture cases are mostly sham, and therefore their results are ultimately ineffective because most of these violations were committed under the cover of the ruling authority.

There are different methods of torture, including physical torture; such as beating, slapping, kicking, suspension, electrocution, and waterboarding, sexual torture; such as rape, rape threats and sexual insults, and psychological torture; such as deprivation of sleep or solitary confinement for long hours.

Nine out of ten allegations of torture and ill-treatment that were formally submitted to governments around the world are ignored, with some countries not even responding in a manner that allows effective prevention or investigation of the violation in question, said Nils Melzer, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

According to a report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, Syria recorded the highest number of torture victims from March 2011 to June 2021, with at least 14,537 people, including 180 children and 92 women, killed due to torture practiced by the conflicting parties. 14,338 people were killed only by the Syrian regime forces.

“Most Arab countries prohibit torture in theory, but it is a cornerstone of their repressive system and is used frequently against their political opponents or human rights defenders,” said Anas Jerjawi, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Operations Officer.

“International policies towards torture perpetrators should be more stringent. This includes imposing sanctions on countries involved in torture practices, and activating the UN’s oversight mechanisms in prisons and detention centers in said countries.” Jerjawi added.

Euro-Med Monitor report recommended that countries and conflicting parties in the Arab region stop all forms of torture against detainees and prisoners, and train officials to apply international standards in prisons and detention centers.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor urged the concerned parties to stop providing immunity for perpetrators of torture, especially to investigation officers, or individuals affiliated with the armed forces in general or in conflict zones under the pretext that it is an emergency, terrorism, or matters that threatens national security. It called them on to investigate all complaints of torture to limit it, thus putting an end to it.

It also called on Arab countries to take all measures necessary to amend or adopt new national legislation that includes clear criminalization of torture, in line with the definition of torture included in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture.

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