HRW denounces ‘torture’ by extremists in northwest Syria

The rights group called for the immediate release of all unlawfully held prisoners, including four still being held or missing among the 11 cases documented. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 January 2019
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HRW denounces ‘torture’ by extremists in northwest Syria

  • Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham earlier this month cemented its control over the northwestern region of Idlib
  • Syria’s war has killed at least 360,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression on anti-government protests

BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch on Monday accused a Syrian group led by former Al-Qaeda fighters of using “torture” against activists opposing their rule.
Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham earlier this month cemented its control over the northwestern region of Idlib at the expense of smaller, Turkey-backed outfits.
The New York-based rights group said it documented 11 cases in which HTS “detained Idlib residents, apparently because of their peaceful work documenting abuses or protesting the group’s rule.”
“Six of those detained were apparently tortured,” including a 16-year-old boy, it said in a statement.
“One man described being hung from a pole upside down for hours during interrogation,” it said.
Another said he was locked up in something resembling a coffin for three hours, while a third said he was pushed through a tire and beaten incessantly in a method infamously used by regime security services.
“The maximum you can do is move your shoulders a bit. And scream for help. But on several occasions, they stuffed things in my mouth so I can’t scream,” the detainee told HRW.
“I used to lose my consciousness a lot.”
Seven of those interviewed by HRW said they were media activists or journalists who had participated in or covered protests against HTS, or were working with foreign media.
Four were made to sign a document pledging they would no longer film or report on the extremist-led alliance.
The rights group called for the immediate release of all unlawfully held prisoners, including four still being held or missing among the 11 cases documented.
“There is no legitimate excuse for rounding up opponents and arbitrarily detaining and torturing them,” said HRW’s Lama Fakih.
“HTS’s crackdown on perceived opposition to their rule mirrors some of the same oppressive tactics used by the Syrian government.”
Syria’s war has killed at least 360,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression on anti-government protests.


White House: Trump spoke to Libyan commander Haftar on Monday

Updated 17 min 46 sec ago
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White House: Trump spoke to Libyan commander Haftar on Monday

WEST PALM BEACH: The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump spoke by phone on Monday to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar and discussed "ongoing counterterrorism efforts and the need to achieve peace and stability in Libya."
The statement said Trump "recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system."
On Thursday, mortar bombs crashed down on a suburb of Tripoli, almost hitting a clinic, after two weeks of an offensive by Haftar's eastern troops on the Libyan capital, which is held by an internationally recognized government.