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Monday 15 August 2016

Al-Sweida Prison: Detainees shot, denied adequate medical care

Two killed and 27 injured in attack by Assad’s Shahiba militia

[PDF of this bulletin]

The central prison of Al-Sweida is a place where intellectual and revolutionary detainees are being held by Assad’s forces.

On Wednesday 3 August in Al-Sweida central prison, violent raids on detainees’ cells caused chaos as detainees tried to get out of their cells to counter the attacks.

To avoid another prison uprising, prison management and the head of the political security branch in Al-Sweida gave a promise to detainees that the offensive actions would not be repeated.

On Friday 5 August, a protest by detainees was met with live fire by guards on the prison walls. National Defence ‘Shabiha’ militia entered the prison shooting directly at detainees. Mohammad Qasim Raslan was hit by two shots in the chest and abdomen, and died in the following days. Hassan Jamoul was shot in his upper chest.

The prisoners retreated and the Shabiha militia moved through the prison, randomly shooting into detainees’ cells. Fadi Mahmoud was yet another victim, shot and killed on the spot in his cell.

Detainees who had retreated to the old building of the prison kept up resistance for an hour until the head of the Al-Sweida political security branch ordered an end to the shooting of unarmed prisoners and the withdrawal of the Shabiha militia. The wounded were taken to hospital, but tension remained high as detainees feared that the wounded would be abused by Shabiha militia.

On Saturday 6 August, an Interior Ministry investigation committee visited the prison. A number of prisoners were arrested, but the investigation committee chose to cover up the role of the Shabiha militia. Rather than expose the role of the Shabiha, the investigators focused on searching for and confiscating mobile phones, and on interrogating detainees who had communicated with the outside world.

On Sunday 7 August, one of the wounded detainees, Mohamad Qasim Raslan, died. He had been taken to the National Hospital in Al-Sweida and then returned to prison the next day even though he was nowhere near recovery. Other wounded were also brought back to prison and kept in isolation awaiting interrogation in the event of their recovery.

Al-Sweida prison is now under punishment measures: with prisoners confined to cells, visits restricted, and other limitations that make prisoners’ lives harder.

The demands of prisoners:

1: An immediate investigation to hold those responsible accountable for causing the death of two prisoners and the injury of 27 prisoners.

2: An end to the provocative investigations of prisoners who committed no crime other than transmitting news of the events to the public.

3: Visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other concerned organisations to the prison to find out the reality of events; to see the status of injured prisoners; to see the inadequate medical treatment which led to the death of Mohammad Qasim Ruslan; to inspect the prison’s management; and to ensure the safety of detainees.