Tag Archives: Amnesty International

The Criminality of the Syrian Regime

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 April 2018

A satellite image of Sednaya prison, about 20 miles north-east of the presidential palace. CNES and ASTRIUM / Amnesty International via AFP

To accompany the release of “Syria’s Slaughterhouses”, a film by TRT World’s “Off The Grid”, I was asked to give an overview of the available evidence of the Assad regime’s crimes against humanity.

The launching of a limited punitive raid against the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad for the use of poison gas has brought some attention to the regime’s crimes. The regime’s visible crimes are numerous and devastating.

In addition to using weapons of mass destruction, fighter jets have levelled ancient cities, sieges have starved populations into submission, and improvised explosives like barrel bombs have maimed thousands. These tactics are part of what UN investigators have called a “systematic and widespread attack against [the Syrian] civilian population”.

The UN commission recently noted that what the Assad regime has done amounts to crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, rape, and torture.

What does not get enough attention is the part of Assad’s criminality that is most difficult to see: that which takes place in the prisons, a vast network of concentration camps where torture and murder is routine. Continue reading

Assad’s Crimes Against Humanity and Trump’s Options in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 7, 2017

Satellite picture of Sednaya prison, Syria (source)

Amnesty International released a report today, “Human Slaughterhouse,” documenting the conditions in Sednaya prison, run by the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, which amount to extermination as a crime against humanity. In addition to the deliberately insanitary conditions, routinized torture and maltreatment, there has been—and continues to be—a systematic campaign of extra-judicial massacre in which perhaps 13,000 people have perished. These findings buttress previous findings, and come with some political implications as the new American administration seeks to chart its way forward in Syria. Continue reading

International Taboo on Chemical Weapons Frays As U.S. Steps Back

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 13, 2017

Yesterday, the United States Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eighteen senior officials in the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The sanctions come in response to reports in August and October 2016 by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the United Nations investigative body, which found that found “the Syrian government, specifically the Syrian Arab Air Force, was responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in Talmenes on April 21, 2014, and in Qmenas and Sarmin on March 16, 2015.” This is three years after the Assad regime was spared punitive military strikes for its use of chemical weapons under a Russian-orchestrated “deal” that ostensibly disarmed Assad of such weapons. Continue reading

Dehumanization and Murder in Assad’s Prisons

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 19, 2016

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The picture above “went viral” on Thursday. The boy, five-year-old Omran Daqnees, was pulled from a building in rebel-held eastern Aleppo City after an airstrike either by the regime of Bashar al-Assad or Russia.

Like Alan Kurdi last September, Omran’s is hardly a unique case—twelve children were treated at just that one medical centre in Aleppo on Wednesday. But it seemed to capture something of the indiscriminate brutality that has been visited on the Syrian population, which rose against Assad five-and-a-half long years ago.

On the same day this shocking image came to global attention, Amnesty International released a report documenting in greater detail the monstrous scale of the cruelty and murder inflicted on Syrians who fall into the regime’s grasp. Continue reading

Mohammed Emwazi and al-Qaeda in Somalia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 1, 2015

Mohammed Emwazi (

Mohammed Emwazi (“Jihadi John”)

The good news of the week is that CAGE (formerly Cageprisoners) is finished. While there had been no shortage of people pointing out that CAGE is a Salafi jihadist advocacy group and terrorist-supporting outfit, not a human rights organisation, this was often met with accusations of “Islamophobia,” McCarthyism, and worse. In 2010, Amnesty International—which partners with CAGE—fired the head of its Gender Unit, Gita Shaghal, when she complained of making Moazzam Begg an A.I. poster-boy. Begg claims to have been wrongfully imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay; for his actual record see the excellent work done by Thomas Joscelyn (start here and here.) But no person of good faith will ever again defend CAGE. Continue reading