BERIUT: The Syrian regime has been accused of various crimes during the conflict that started in 2011, including torture in prisons, summary executions and the use of chemical weapons.
Some European countries have, meanwhile, launched investigations into alleged crimes by the Syrian regime, such as France, which announced on Monday international arrest warrants for three senior intelligence officials over the deaths of two Franco-Syrian nationals in a Syrian jail.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 60,000 people have died from torture or harsh conditions in regime custody since the conflict began.
Already in 2012 Human Rights Watch said Syria was holding tens of thousands of detainees in a “torture archipelago.”
It documented 27 detention facilities nationwide used to hold people swept up in the regime’s crackdown on protesters.
Witnesses described torture, including beatings, the use of electricity or car battery acid, sexual assault and mock executions.
In 2014, a former Syrian military photographer codenamed “Caesar” fled the country taking with him 55,000 images of abuses committed in its jails between 2011 and 2013. The digital images of 11,000 people alleged to have died in detention showed emaciated bodies. The evidence has been used in investigations in Germany and France.
In February 2016, UN investigators said the mass scale of deaths of detainees suggests that the Syrian regime is responsible for acts that amount to extermination.
A year later Amnesty International said as many as 13,000 people were hanged between 2011 and 2015 at the notorious Saydnaya military-run prison near Damascus.
This came on top of the 17,700 people it had already recorded as having perished in regime prisons since the start of the conflict.
In May 2017, Washington claimed that Damascus had built a “crematorium” at Saydnaya to cover up thousands of prisoner deaths.
Human Rights Watch has since 2012 accused the Syrian armed forces of using banned incendiary weapons against its opponents.
The Britain-based Observatory and other activists also claim the regime has dropped TNT-packed barrels from aircraft. There have also been several allegations of the use of chemical weapons, including sarin and chlorine, which the regime denies.
A UN inquiry published in March 2018 and based on 454 interviews said that Syrian troops and regime-linked militia systematically used rape and sexual violence against civilians.
Opposition fighters committed similar violations but at a considerably lower rate, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria said.