Amnesty International says Syrians detained during a year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule have been subjected to widespread torture that amounts to crimes against humanity.
The London-based human rights group issued its assessment on the situation in Syria in a report released Wednesday.
Amnesty said “the scale of torture and other ill-treatment in Syria has risen to a level not witnessed for years and is reminiscent of the dark era of the 1970s and 1980s.” An Amnesty official said detainees in Syria's crackdown face “a nightmarish world of systemic torture” that has set the country back decades.
Amnesty's report, based on interviews with Syrians who fled to Jordan, documents 31 methods of torture or other ill-treatment meted out by security forces, army and pro-government armed gangs, described by witnesses or victims.
On the ground in Syria, loyalist forces assaulted rebel strongholds in northern areas Tuesday, targeting the city of Idlib. Unconfirmed reports said the army had recaptured most of Idlib, near the Turkish border, pushing hundreds of military defectors out of a major operational base they had held for months.
Army defectors claimed to have hit back Tuesday, killing 22 soldiers in two separate ambushes. Activists also reported fresh violence in the central province of Hama, the Damascus suburbs and elsewhere, with dozens killed.
Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency said at least 30,000 Syrians had fled to neighboring countries since the conflict began in March 2011 and at least 200,000 more were internally displaced. In a further development, Human Rights Watch reported that Syrian forces have planted internationally banned anti-personnel mines near the borders of Lebanon and Turkey in recent months. Witnesses and de-miners said the mines have already caused civilian casualties.
U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who met with Mr. Assad in Damascus earlier this week, said he had made “concrete” proposals to the Syrian leader on ways to halt the attacks and secure humanitarian access to cities where thousands have been killed in the past year. A spokesman for the envoy ((Ahmad Fawzi) said “their responses are being considered.”
In Washington, the United States dismissed Mr. Assad's announcement of parliamentary elections set for May 7. The poll is part of what the government calls a series of reforms based on a new constitution approved by referendum in February. Opposition groups say the constitution is illegitimate and are demanding Mr. Assad's resignation.
The United States, Britain and Russia have each called for a halt to the violence in Syria, but the United Nations Security Council remains divided on how to resolve the crisis. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says his country will press Syria to accept a plan that calls for a “simultaneous” truce between government forces and armed rebels.
He commented Tuesday, a day after Security Council foreign ministers met in New York.
Russia and China have vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on its opponents. They say the resolutions called for interfering in Syria's internal affairs.
U.N. officials estimate that 7,500 people have died in the year-long violence.