Freedom from Torture is appalled by new evidence smuggled out of Syria which appears to show the bodies of at least 11,000 people tortured and killed in Syrian jails. Alongside a coalition of 25 leading aid agencies and charities we are calling on Britain to accept its “shared responsibility” for Syria’s refugees like our client Mohammed Amin (quoted below) and join a UN scheme to welcome those fleeing the conflict.
A group of three international lawyers has released a 31-page report which concludes that the evidence –including 55,000 digital images - would support findings of crimes against humanity and could also support findings of war crimes against the current Syrian regime. Chief executive Keith Best said:
"This sickening haul of photos suggests that the Assad regime has taken the use of mass torture to new extremes. Every year we treat hundreds of torture survivors from countries like Iran and Sri Lanka whose authorities use torture as a tool of repression, designed to intimidate the civilian population and crush any kind of political dissent. It looks like Syria has joined this barbaric club."
Mr Best called on those participating in the Geneva talks to work out a way of holding Syria accountable for these grave human rights violations and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
In a letter that appeared on the front page of The Independent last week, Mr Best also joined NGO leaders calling on the Prime Minister to “transform the lives” of Syrians displaced by the civil war in their country by committing the UK to participate in the UN refugee agency’s global resettlement programme. Chief executive Keith Best said:
"The UK government’s moral duty to offer resettlement places to Syrian refugees is now bigger than ever in light of these shocking allegations. Our experience providing psychological therapies for torture survivors has clearly shown that the effects of trauma are often worsened by continued insecurity and the stress this causes.
In order to come to terms with what has happened and start putting the fractured pieces of their lives back together, people need security. They need to feel safe and protected; only then can the healing process start."
Mohammed Amin is a Syrian refugee currently receiving treatment at Freedom from Torture’s Glasgow centre. He told his clinician how much it meant for him to be able to come to the safety of the UK after his experiences of being tortured in Syria.
"I used to hear a lot about human rights, but I never really felt that human rights existed. Coming here was the first time that I felt that life could be different. Even so, I am just one of millions of people out there, regrettably. I feel grateful for what they have done for me, and the warm reception I have had from this country. But the issue is much much bigger than just for me as an individual.
For my mum and sister to be given refugee status in the UK would be like a dream coming true. It means I would be relieved from suffering anxiety and worry as I cannot do anything for them and cannot comfort them. If they were to come my worries would disappear. But this is not just about my sister and my mum, this is a wider problem, I feel the same for every member of my community: I would want safety for all of them.'