This week marks the eighth anniversary of the Syrian crisis. Eight years of violence and terrorisation of Syrian people. Eight years without accountability for international crimes against Syrian civilians. Eight years (and more) of the arbitrary and unlawful detention of those who seek freedom, democracy and the protection of the human rights of the Syrian people. A detention during which many die each day, and other emerge with long lasting physical, psychological and social scars which haunt them for years, profoundly impacting their families and their communities. The issue of detainees must remain a top priority for all, until every last political detainee is released or their remains identified and returned to their families. Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights (LDHR) continues to press the international community to find real humanitarian and human rights responses to this issue.
Today LDHR releases its third report on detention in Syria. It focuses on the systematic and pervasive sexual violence against men and boys in Syrian detention centres:
“The Soul has died”: Typology, Patterns, Prevalence and the Devastating Impact of Sexual Violence against Men and boys in Syrian Detention Centres. (link)
Based on a collection of 138 LDHR medical expert reports of 138 male detainees, it reveals extensive, pervasive and brutal sexual violence against Syrian political prisoners across time, government security agencies and their detention centres. Significant typologies and patterns emerge which suggest widespread, systematic targeting of those opposing the Syrian regime to humiliate, debase and break them. Unusual methodology, such as penis tying, in different detention centres may evidence some form of co-ordination or instructions. The 15 detailed case studies also support an objective of genital violence to prevent births, with clear intent statements made by perpetrators to this effect.
Myths, assumptions and misunderstandings surround most of the response and accountability efforts for sexual violence against males. If we misunderstand, mischaracterise and diminish, we will fail to provide access points or support recovery. Trauma and emotional damage in men affect women, children, communities and future generations. We will not overcome the deep stigma affecting the survivors unless we talk about what happened and shift the stigma from the victim to the perpetrators. LDHR hopes that this report can catalyse an important and overdue discussion within Syrian communities, help reduce taboos and tackle stigma, and forge paths for male survivors to accountability, support and recovery.
It is imperative that all possible actions are taken by the international community to address the issue of detention in Syria, to take all necessary measures to secure the immediate release of political prisoners and to stop further waves of arrests as has been seen recently in Southern Syria. Detention monitors and medical professionals must be given safe and unrestricted access into all places of detention in Syria as soon as possible.
: LDHR urges all parties
to ensure the issue of detention and those lost in Syrian detention centres remains the top priority-
– to recognise that peace and long-lasting stability in Syria and the region will not be possible without accountability and justice, and to take continual steps to create and support adjudicative justice mechanisms.
– to support the work of Syrians in their communities to tackle the long-lasting effect of sexual violence against our men, women, boys and girls which will create pathways to resilience, recovery and revitalisation in their quest for a better future based on human rights.