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UN rights chief condemns ‘rampant’ torture in Syria

GENEVA — Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, condemned the “rampant” and “routine” use of torture by the Syrian authorities, in a paper released by her office Monday, which also records torture by some armed opposition groups and serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment of children.

“Upon arrival at a detention facility, detainees are routinely beaten and humiliated for several hours by the guards in what has come to be known as the ‘reception party,’ ” the report states, drawing on 38 interviews conducted by UN investigators over the past eight months with individuals released from detention centers across Syria.

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“Our findings confirm that torture is being routinely used in government detention facilities in Syria and that torture is also used by some armed groups,” Pillay said. “In armed conflict, torture constitutes a war crime. When it is used in a systematic or widespread manner, which is almost certainly the case in Syria, it also amounts to a crime against humanity.”

Among those interviewed, a 26-year-old woman detained for more than two weeks described how security forces beat her and pulled out her teeth during interrogation sessions held every night and how, on one morning, she was tied up and raped by a security officer.

It also cites the account of a 60-year-old man who had spent three months in different detention centers and described how, every day, “cellmates were taken for 30 or 45 minutes of interrogation and came back with their faces bleeding, barely able to walk, and with open wounds that remained untreated and became infected.”

Such cases were “illustrative of a much broader pattern of torture and ill-treatment,” the paper noted.

Torture by armed opposition groups was rare in the early stages of the conflict but that as of 2013, the report said, “this phenomenon appears to be on the rise.” Two former detainees of the militant jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant cited in the paper described receiving severe beatings with electric cables, wood sticks, and rifle butts.

In a separate development Monday, the international watchdog overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons reported that the Assad government completed delivery of another shipment, which brings the total to almost two-thirds of its arsenal.

The country has now delivered a bit more than 57 percent of its most dangerous, so-called priority one, chemicals, and 82 percent of less toxic, priority two chemicals, said Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

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