The New York Times
May 21 2019
Thousands of Syrian government documents recovered amid the country’s civil war provide a paper trail showing widespread and systematic human rights violations by its powerful security agencies, according to a Syrian-led organization that analyzed the papers, the Syria Justice and Accountability Center.
In a report released Tuesday, the center said the documents reveal the government’s own record of practices long described by numerous ordinary Syrians, including sweeping arrests for nonviolent dissent, the detention of women and children, the imprisonment of relatives of wanted people, the ordering of military attacks without apparent regard for the danger to civilians, and the harassment of the Kurdish minority.
The documents bolster reporting by The New York Times and others on the sprawling network of torture prisons where at least 14,000 people have died and nearly 128,000 remain imprisoned or unaccounted for. They provide an additional glimpse of the broad array of offenses for which the Syrian security agencies made arrests, such as attending a protest (or simply being rumored to be planning to attend one), spitting near a statue of the former president, or making a critical remark at a dinner party.
While such practices are familiar to many Syrians, the center’s executive director, Mohammad Al Abdallah, called the report the first broad, public analysis of official government documents that “expose clear patterns of widespread, systematic human rights violations” and show that “security agencies operate above the law.”
By Anne Barnard