Amnesty International: Syria torturing children
By ASSOCIATED PRESS Jun. 29, 2004 20:48
BEIRUT, Lebanon
The rights watchdog Amnesty International has accused the Syrian authorities of torturing more than 20 children who have been detained since Kurdish riots in March.
Also Tuesday, the London-based group condemned what it called the unfair trial of seven Kurds convicted in a Syrian State Security Court on Sunday of separatist agitation and belonging to a secret organization.
Amnesty said it was "gravely concerned" about reports that Kurdish children arrested during clashes in March have been tortured and held incommunicado for months.
"The organization has received the names of more than 20 children, aged between 14 and 17 years, who have reportedly been subjected to various types of torture, leaving scars on their bodies and leading to serious injuries, including broken noses, perforated ear drums and infected wounds," Amnesty said in a statement sent by e-mail to The Associated Press in Beirut.
There was no comment from the Syrian government, which almost invariably ignores questions about security matters.
Amnesty said more than 20 children are still in detention.
Twenty-five people were killed and more than 100 wounded in the March riots between Syrians of Kurdish and Arab origin. The clashes began with a brawl among supporters of rival Arab and Kurdish soccer teams in the northern town of Qamishli. The next day, Kurds rioted during a funeral for the victims and the violence spread to other towns.
Syrian rights groups charge that hundreds of Kurds remain in detention owing to their alleged participation in the clashes.
In the trial of the seven Kurds, Amnesty said they were arrested a year ago for taking part in a peaceful demonstration for Kurdish rights. It said the defendants told the court they were tortured in detention and held in solitary confinement. One detainee testified he was "held in a toilet," Amnesty reported.
"The organization considers the detention and trial of the seven men a violation of their right to freedom of expression and assembly" as guaranteed in the Syrian Constitution, Amnesty said.
Three defendants received sentences of two years' imprisonment and the remaining four got one year in prison each. The four were released for having served their sentences.