Press Releases  ::   Hundreds of Detainees buried in mass mraves in Damascus Suburbs in Branch 215.

Hundreds of Detainees buried in Mass Graves in Damascus Suburbs

after Torturing to death in Branch 215-Raid Brigade.

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Violation Documentation Center in Syria said in an extensive investigation report issued today about the reality of the extrajudicial killings and systematic torture that are taking place in the Raid Brigade in Damascus that hundreds of Syrian citizens who have been arbitrarily detained may have died as a result of severe systematic torture carried out by the Military Intelligence in Damascus.  the report also mentioned that dozens have died due to skin diseases and other diseases prevalent in the place of detention as a result of medical negligence, intentional lack of medicines, lack of nutrition in addition to very bad conditions in the detention centers.  

     The report, 38 pages, said that hundreds of detainees who have died in that Branch have been buried in two relatively adjacent areas "Njha, Damascus Suburbs," where the regime forces dug two parallel trenches parallel in the Martyrs Cemetery Njha, as the center used satellites images showing the potential places that are usually and "very likely" used as mass graves.


VDC has conducted many interviews with eyewitnesses and former detainees that have been released recently. It has also conducted several interviews with dissident officers of the same branch, one of which provided the center with detailed information about the structure of the intelligence body and the specialization of every branch of it. The team that prepared the report has contacted many field activists, especially residents of the nearby areas of "Njha, Damascus Suburbs", Bahdaliyah and Sayeda Zeinab. In their testimonies, they all assured that they spotted several suspicious transactions in the two cemeteries; " the Martyrs Cemetery" in Njha and "Bahdaliyah Cemetery" near Husseiniya area, specifically the burial that took place between the last days of September and early October 2012 where two large refrigerator lorries were seen carrying dozens of bodies that were buried in a mass grave in a Bahdaliyah Cemetery.

As each victim was "given a number", one of the eyewitnesses  stressed to VDC that he, in person, saw a number of bodies at the Office of the officer in charge of the detention in the above mentioned Branch, one of which had the number (3234).

 In this context, the witness says:


     When a detainee is released, he is asked to go to officer's office to sign some papers. Usually this happens at 11 pm. On 11 Jun 2013, I was one of those who were meant to have a new life; they summoned my name and asked me to go to the officer's office. Near the office, there were many detainees waiting to sign some papers. There were, also, nine dead bodies, one of which has the number '3234' on its forehead. I remembered, immediately, what one of the 'Shawishia' told me about the number of death cases.


Bassam Ahmad, VDC member who conducted the report says:

One of the major challenges faced by the working team is that the regime was burying the bodies next to already-existing Cemeteries, like the Martyrs Cemetery in Njha and Bahdaliyah Cemetery, which made the first days of investigation very difficult, but after that the team collected dozens of testimonies, verified and analyzed them in order to come up with the exact coordinates of the burial places. Then, Human Rights Watch provided the center with satellites images of specified intervals that confirmed the suspicious drilling and excavation acts, which correspond so much to the possibility of being mass graves. For example, a number of testimonies confirmed the entry of two refrigerator lorries loaded with corpses to Bahdaliyah Cemetery in the end of September and the beginning of October, and after carefully determining the coordinates, a newly captured satellite image of the area showed the extreme expansion of the drilling area for more than 2100 m2.


The report describes the horrors witnessed in Branch 215 and the conditions that claim the lives of dozens of the detainees such as; the systematic torture and the widespread diseases without any kind of treatment.


VDC has previously issued a special report entitled "Horrors in The Region Branch, Branch 227", in which it referred to dozens of the cases that had been recognized by the regime itself, for the regime forces delivers the personal belongings of the deceased detainees to their families with a stamped, sealed paper from the Military Police in Qaboun, Damascus that confirms, undoubtedly, that those detainees- who had been arbitrarily arrested- were extrajudicially killed in the cellars of Branch 227, known as the Region Branch, which is also a subsidiary of the Military Intelligence Division, only meters away from Branch 215.


One legal consultant said to VDC describing the actions mentioned in the report:


The acts described in the Report are carried out in the context of an armed conflict of non-international character, as noted by all reports of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into violations of human rights in Syria, instituted by the UN Human Rights Council. They constitute serious violations of article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, as they are committed against persons taking no active part in the hostilities, and placed hors de combat, by detention. They involve violence to life and person, and murder following cruel treatment and torture. They thus amount to a war crime.


Furthermore, the death of detainees as a result of extreme torture, and their willful abandonment without medical care, until they are dead, amounts to willful killing, which is committed as part of a systematic attack directed against civilian population, with knowledge of the attack. It expresses a situation of organized violence, and a pattern of crimes, that is non-accidental, and involves repetition of similar criminal conduct on a regular basis, on the basis of a common policy among various regime security services, which mobilizes substantial resources to transport the dead detainees from detention centers to burry them in mass graves, under orders of high level political and military authorities to achieve the political objective of repressing any movement in the revolting Syrian cities. Accordingly, such acts may amount to crimes against humanity. They require from all international investigation bodies to be able to have immediate access to verify such mass graves, before the regime covers and conceals such crime



*Under the supervision of Razan Zeitouneh; the General Coordinator of Violation Documentation Center in Syria

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