The prisoners of the Terrorism and Disturbance wing of the Hama Central Prison have begun a mutiny in protest at the torture practiced on them by a group recently created by the prison director.
The mutiny meant that the “regime protectors” battalion had to be called to the prison. A video leaked by prisoners showed security vehicles spread across the courtyard of the prison, and reports which followed indicated that the security forces and prison guards took the prisoners and began to torture them.
According to leaked videos from within the prison, the prisoners locked the doors of the wing in which they were located and placed doors- which had perhaps been pulled out from within the same wing- against them. What follows is a special report on the Hama Central Prison based on testimonies carried out by SHRC with ex-detainees of the prison. SHRC is also in the process of preparing special reports on Adra Prison and al-Suweida prison which will be published soon.
Detainees of the Prison
Hama Central Prison holds approximately 1000 detainees spread across various wings according to the accusation for which they were arrested. The prison has wings for: theft, murder (this is the smallest wing with around 50 inmates), prostitution and rape, the convicted, drug crimes, miscellaneous (crimes separate to the above), and the terrorism and disturbance wing (which is currently the largest wing. Two years ago it held around 450 inmates, whilst currently it holds around 600 detainees, after a number of detainees from Adra Prison were transferred there.)
Although the majority of the detainees of the terrorism and disturbance wing are accused of various accusations connected to their participation in movements against the regime, most of them have not been involved in any activity and were in fact arrested at security checkpoints in various areas. Through the use of torture, they were forced to admit to accusations such as the financing of terrorism (a common charge amongst all detainees) and participation in military activities (a 12 year old female child detainee from Aleppo is accused of financing terrorism, whilst an almost blind man is accused of taking part in military activities such as being a sniper!).
The Prison Management
The prison director was changed a number of months ago, with the Brigadier Ziyaad al-Mohammed (from Deir Azzour) being appointed as the new director. Previously, he had directed the Latakkia prison. He is assisted by the captains: Yusuf Ali al-Waheesh (al-Safirah), Yasir (Aleppo), Imad al-Ali (al-Jablah), and Abdul Mu’een (Kafr al-Butoon).
Since beginning his new post, al-Mohammed imposed a strict policy on the detainees. A number of days ago he formed a group specifically in charge of torture, which led to the mutiny the detainees began today.
This mutiny is considered a follow on from a number of protests held by detainees in the past. On 21/6/2015 (which coincided with the beginning of the month of Ramadan) the prisoners held a hunger strike. The director the prison called in an attorney general from Hama who interviewed 25 prisoners and promised them that their conditions will improve. However, the same 25 prisoners were then transferred to al-Suwaida and Latakkia prisons as a punishment.
Conditions inside the Prison
The prisoners suffer from ill service inside the prison, with dirty food being presented to them to the extent that many prisoners avoid it and buy food based on the money they receive from their families. This matter has become exhausting for the families, as the price of food inside the prison is very high.
Health conditions inside the prison are extremely poor, with one doctor overseeing all the prisoners. This doctor doesn’t even inspect the ill in the prison, but simply provides them with painkillers, regardless of their illness.
Detainees also suffer from violations they are subjected to during their transferral to the terrorism courts in Damascus: they are first transferred to Homs prison where they are placed in a room called the “Chamber of Amanaat” for approximately a week before being transferred to Damascus. On their way back they pass by the chamber once again before they are taken back to Hama Central Prison.
In interviews conducted by SHRC with former detainees of the prison, the chamber is described as being around five metres in width and six metres in length. Wastewater is leaked into it and it is located underground with a very small window close to the ceiling.
Despite the small size of the chamber, approximately 100-150 detainees are found in it. In addition to the room being very dirty, detainees are given a military blanket full of lice, which transfers lice to all the detainees in the room.
Beside the chamber lies a room called “Precautionary Prisoners” in which around five prisoners who are loyal and accused of various crimes reside. These prisoners exploit the detainees in the chamber and sell them food as well as allowing them to call from mobile phones they have, with local calls costing 50 liras a minute.