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161 arrests in Syria in January, most by regime

Syrian government soldiers sit atop a tank in Syria on 1 February 2020 [AFP/Getty Images]
Syrian government soldiers sit atop a tank in Syria on 1 February 2020 [AFP/Getty Images]

At least 161 cases of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances have been conducted in Syria in the first month of 2020, according to a report released yesterday by the UK-based Syrian Human Rights Network (SNHR).

In the publication detailing the arrests and extrajudicial detentions in January alone, it was found that 109 of the cases were those of enforced disappearances, classified by when the parties responsible deny the arrests and the detainees are kept for a minimum of 20 days without their families being able to contact them or obtain any information on them.

Most of the arrests are made during raids and while the individuals were travelling through checkpoints, with torture being inflicted on them from the very moment the arrests are made. Included in the arrests are two children and one woman, with the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad – strengthened by the four branches of its security service as well as its affiliated militias – being the main culprit with 69 arrests made.

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The second largest figure numbered 52 cases of arbitrary arrests by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and 37 cases carried out by some factions in the opposition, with three conducted by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS).

The cases of arrests and disappearances have also been ranked in number by the Syrian provinces in which they were carried out, with Aleppo in the north-west witnessing the largest number, then Deir Ez-Zur in the east, followed by the suburbs of Damascus in the south and then Hasaka in north-east.

The report comes at a time where the Assad regime, following its recapture of much of the country over the past few years through Russian and Iranian intervention, has been proven to be the most prominent player who has committed a variety of human rights violations throughout the nine-year Syrian civil war.

With the sweeping indiscriminate arrests and tortures carried out by the regime as a shock tactic since the start of the uprisings in 2011, those detained often end up lost in the vast prison network created by Syrian security services. Reports have abounded of rape, extrajudicial killings, the pulling out of fingernails, the use of electrocution, hanging victims by their wrists for long periods of time, keeping them in stress positions, and the beating and flogging of usually the soles of their feet.

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