Syrian forces are sexually abusing men, women and children who have been detained during the ongoing conflict, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [press release] Friday. HRW interviewed more than a dozen former Syrian detainees who were sexually assaulted by either the Syrian army or pro-government militias known as shabiha. Many detainees claimed that they were being imprisoned for political activism. The Middle East director for HRW, Sarah Leah Whitson described the widespread use of sexual violence against detainees:
Sexual violence in detention is one of many horrific weapons in the Syrian government's torture arsenal and Syrian security forces regularly use it to humiliate and degrade detainees with complete impunity. The assaults are not limited to detention facilitiesgovernment forces and pro-government shabiha militia members have also sexually assaulted women and girls during home raids and residential sweeps.According to HRW, the extent of sexual violence in Syria is unknown.
The alleged human rights abuses perpetrated by Syrian forces and pro-government militias have drawn international scorn. On Thursday, Amnesty International [advocacy website] accused [JURIST report] Syrian armed forces of deliberately killing civilians. Earlier this month, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic voiced concern [JURIST report] that the violence in Syria amounts to crimes against humanity. He addressed the General Assembly on behalf of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] to urge the international community to convince both the Syrian government and the armed forces to cease their violence and ongoing human rights violations. Syria has been attacked for its human rights violations especially in the wake of last month's Houla incident that killed more than 100 people, including women and children. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] approved [JURIST report] in a 41-3 vote a resolution blaming "pro-regime elements" and government troops for the massacre in Houla. On the same day, the Syrian government released [JURIST report] more than 500 prisoners detained during pro-democracy demonstrations. The release of "arbitrarily detained persons" was a key point in the six-point plan which was supposed to begin on April 12 but has not yet been successfully executed despite a resolution approved [JURIST report] by the UN Security Council to send 300 unarmed soldiers and other civilian aid for 90 days to supervise the implementation of the plan.