GENEVA — Navi Pillay, the U.N. human rights chief, condemned the rampant and routine use of torture by the Syrian authorities, in a paper released by her office Monday, which also records torture by some armed opposition groups and serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment of children.
“Upon arrival at a detention facility, detainees are routinely beaten and humiliated for several hours by the guards in what has come to be known as the ‘reception party,’” the report states, drawing on 38 interviews conducted by U.N. investigators over the past eight months with individuals released from detention centers across Syria.
“Our findings confirm that torture is being routinely used in government detention facilities in Syria, and that torture is also used by some armed groups,” Pillay said. “In armed conflict, torture constitutes a war crime. When it is used in a systematic or widespread manner, which is almost certainly the case in Syria, it also amounts to a crime against humanity.”
Among those interviewed, a 26-year-old woman detained for more than two weeks described how security forces beat her and pulled out her teeth during interrogation sessions held every night and how, on one morning, she was tied up and raped by a security officer.
Those detained came from all walks of life and had described being held in abhorrent conditions in cells crammed with prisoners and without sanitation, according to the report.
The U.N. paper said torture by armed opposition groups was rare in the early stages of Syria’s conflict, which began in March 2011, but that as of 2013, “this phenomenon appears to be on the rise.” Investigators said they heard allegations that children perceived to be pro-government were tortured.
U.N. investigators said several armed opposition groups, including Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Nusra Front, had detention facilities in hospitals, schools and other public buildings in areas under their control and that those most at risk of being held for interrogation included activists and people attempting to document abuses.
In Syria on Monday, three journalists from Al Manar, Hezbollah’s television station, were killed when gunmen fired on their car on the outskirts of the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, the station reported.
The Syrian army seized control of Maaloula from rebels Monday, and the reporters were among the journalists present to cover the events. Throughout the Syrian conflict, Al Manar has been sympathetic to President Bashar Assad, framing the conflict as a battle against extremists groups and terrorists.