Rooted in a series of small protests that began in late January of 2011, the Syrian Civil War has developed into one of the most politically pressing issues over its five-year time span. As the war has torn apart the country, international organizations have floundered to accommodate the surge of refugees that have sought to leave the dangerous situations developing in their home country; the British Broadcasting Corporation reports that “[nearly] 4.6 million people have fled Syria, while another 13.5 million are said to be in need of humanitarian assistance inside the country.” Despite the current state of affairs, the crisis in Syria has recently achieved a new level as reports about the possible extermination of Syrian detainees have surfaced.
On February 3, 2016, the United Nations Human Rights council released a 25-page statement in which they detailed their findings conducted over the course of 621 interviews with detainees held by government agencies. The report states that “detainees held by the Government were beaten to death, or died as a result of injuries sustained due to torture. Others perished as a consequence of inhuman living conditions. The Government has committed the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and other inhuman acts.” Meanwhile, the BBC has stated that the majority of deaths reported in detention occurred while detainees were held in captivity at locations that were under control by Syrian intelligence control, and stated that “both government and rebel sides are accused of violence against people they detain … but the vast majority are being held by government agencies.”
On the side of Islamic State militants, the UN release states that “some anti-Government armed groups established makeshift places of detention where captured Government soldiers were ill treated, and executed. Others were summarily executed following illicit trials.” While the number of detainees held by anti-government groups remains unknown, the UN has made it clear that the expected number is quite large. The charges against the IS groups claim that executions have been made as a result of death sentences issued by unauthorized courts. Jabhat Al-Nusra, a terrorist group, is mentioned in particular in the filing for “[conducting] mass executions of captured Government soldiers.
The UN has condemned the actions of both sides involved in the Syrian civil war for the use of torture, and reports that detainees on either side of the war were subjected to a lack of water, food, and health care. As the death toll in Syria has risen past 250,000, it is also expected that several thousand of these deaths can be attributed to substandard human rights for captives. Ultimately, the UN has made it clear that both sides involved in the Syrian Civil War have perpetrated crimes against humanity, and urges lawmakers to consider that “Accountability for these and other crimes must form part of any political solution. The situation of detainees is critical, and represents an urgent and large-scale crisis of human rights protection. Urgent steps must be taken by the Syrian Government, armed groups, external backers, and the wider international community to prevent further deaths.”