The Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) has received a call from a live witness at Sednaya Prison, who informed the committee that regiments of the military police had entered the prison yesterday night, 4/7/2008, and had set about replacing the locks of all prison cells with larger ones that would be more difficult to break or open.
In the morning of 5/7/2008, an additional enforcement of between 300-400 military police arrived at the prison, and began to search detainees in a humiliating and provocative manner which led to arguments between them and the political detainees. Some military police elements increased the provocations by throwing copies of the glorious Quran on the floor and stamping on them. This aroused protest from the Islamist detainees, some of whom moved towards the police to recover the copies of the Quran, but were immediately gunned down by the police and nine of them were instantaneously killed. They include: Zakariyya Affash, Mohammed Mahareesh, Mahmoud Abu Rashid, Abdul-Baqi Khattab, Ahmed Shalaq, Khalaad Bilal, Mo’ayad al-Ali, Muhanad al-Omar and Khidr Alloush. Consequently, chaos spread throughout this wing of the prison, especially that the inmates had previously received threats of a massacre throughout the previous weeks in the same manner as of the Tadmur massacre. The detainees began breaking the cells’ locks and confronted the military police which opened fire again. The death toll has risen to approximately 25 victims.
The number of angry detainees however, far outnumbered the military police elements, and therefore managed to hold them as hostages along with the prison director, four military officers, and five ranks of first assistants. Consequently, all other elements surrendered. The remnant of the military police brigade stationed on the outskirts of the prison along with the arriving enforcements fired tear and smoke grenades into the prison, which led to the inmates seeking refuge on the prison roof. They remained there until 3.00pm (Damascus time), at which point communication between the witness and SHRC was lost.
The Syrian Security Authorities brought 30 tanks and armoured vehicles in addition to a large number of the regime’s order-keeping forces including snipers and armours to the scene.
Around 12.00pm negotiations between the detainees and the security forces began. The detainees appointed the detainee Sameer al-Bahr (60 years) to deliver the messages between themselves and the security. The detainees only asked to be promised not to be killed if they surrendered, proving their good intentions by not using the weapons that had fallen into their hands, claiming they were peaceful, and had only protested against the humiliations and mistreatment they were being subjected to. The security however refused to give them any promise and ordered them to surrender immediately and release the hostages, after which other issues could be discussed. The authorities also threatened to break into the prison if their orders were refused, even if they were to kill 1000 detainees in the process. When Sameer al-Bahr conveyed the detainees’ refusal, he was beaten and taken away in an armoured vehicle. Matters remain unresolved at this point, when communication with the witness was lost.
On its part, the Syrian Authorities ignored the developments and concealed them from the world. No statements were issued to disclose what was going on in Sednaya Military Prison where 3000 political prisoners are held.
Scores of detainees’ relatives both inside and outside of Syria have contacted SHRC by phone, email and SMS to enquire about members of their families, in the light of unproved rumours that the prison was subjected to air bombardment, causing a state of alarm and fear among their families.
SHRC urgently appeals to the Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad to order an immediate stop to this ongoing massacre against peaceful detainees and to stop all mistreatment and provocation against the sentiments and sacraments of the Syrian people.
SHRC also urgently appeals to all supporters of human rights in Syria as well as other humanitarian groups and organisations, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-mon and the Arab league Secretary General Amr Musa to immediately act to stop this massacre, which could kill potentially thousands of the Syrian people.
Syrian Human Rights Committee