The report notes that the detention and ransom of Syrian civilians is the key source of financing for the Assad regime.
According to a study that shows the immense scale of extortion in the prison system, families of prisoners in Syrian prisons are regularly forced to bribe officials to allow them to visit or secure their release. The sums involved – up to £ 2 million in one prison – are likely to help senior members of the Assad regime escape sanctions, according to a survey of more than 1,200 former detainees and family members. A study by the Association of Prisoners and Missing Persons in Sednaya Prison (ADMSP) reported that guards, judges, members of the military and, in some cases, intermediaries receive cuts as part of a corrupt network that feeds large quantities of cash into the security apparatus of the country.
Some paid a few thousand dollars or less, while others paid up to $30,000 (£22,000), primarily to families living in exile. Diab Serrih, author of the study and co-founder of ADMSP, said the money ended up in the pockets of corrupt officials, warlords and what he called the “deep government that runs Syria behind the scenes. ” He said, ” he said. ” The Syrian regime is founded on branches of security and intelligence. Serrih says that figures within the regime support the scheme, many of whom are sanctioned and can not hold bank accounts abroad. The overall amount of bribes is possibly much higher than suggested by the survey.
Humanitarian monitors report that before the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad started in 2011, between 100,000 and 250,000 people were detained or forcibly disappeared. Since the Arab Spring started, tens of thousands of people are thought to have been tortured or killed in Syrian jails.
A military facility on the outskirts of Damascus, Sednaya Prison has long been known as one of Syria’s most feared institutions. Serrih, arrested in 2006 after founding a youth opposition party, spent five years as a political prisoner before being freed in 2011 when the government emptied opponents’ prisons to make room for an influx of activists and demonstrators. Prior to moving to Damascus, he spent his childhood in the Sednaya region.
He now lives in the Netherlands after initially fleeing to Turkey. The study says enforced disappearances are a primary tactic used by the Syrian state to monitor and threaten citizens. The report urges the international community to put pressure on supporters of the regime, in particular Russia, to expose the plight of the missing and to allow families to visit those who are still alive.
The study also calls for officials to reveal where the dead were buried and to allow DNA testing on the remains so that victims may be returned to their families. Ahmad is a former inmate who believed he would never see his family again. For three years, he was incarcerated in nine separate jails, and his family paid $30,000 in bribes to free him. “Mine continued to pay like many families.” “Abdullah was 19 years old and planning to desert from the army, where he was doing his military service, when he was stopped at a checkpoint in October 2012. He was taken to prison, tortured and interrogated. “Four or five people died every day when they were taken out of the cell,” he said. “They died of hunger most of the time. He was accused of gun theft and extremism in court and sentenced in Sednaya to 15 years. Food was offered to inmates at times, he said, but not when the guards were in a bad mood. Talking and reading were prohibited, and prisoners who were Sunni, but not members of the Alawite sect of Assad, were tortured. “My parents hired a lawyer to reduce my sentence to six years,” Abdullah said. “The prosecutor charged a bribe of $10,000.
Many families have spent thousands of dollars getting news about their loved ones, but have earned nothing back. “Nadia, Lebanon’s Syrian refugee, said she had her ma ma.”