2014-01-25 - As Secretary of State John Kerry delivered his opening remarks at the Syria peace talks in Switzerland on Wednesday, he expressed outrage at new revelations of the brutal tactics perpetrated by President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Evidence of the execution of thousands of Syrians in Assad’s prisons, Kerry said, represented “an appalling assault, not only on human lives, but on human dignity and on every standard by which the international community tries to organise itself.”
Kerry was referring to a report released this week based on the testimony of a defector within the Syrian military police, which seems to provide evidence of the systematic torture of thousands of detainees in Assad’s prisons.
Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian telecommunications engineer, has not been able to look at these images, or the other pictures and videos streaming out of his native country over the past three years.
They brought with them flashbacks from his own experience: in 2002 and 2003, he was Prisoner No. 2 in an underground cell at Syrian military intelligence’s Palestine Branch in Damascus, where he was beaten and whipped with two-inch thick electrical cables until he gave into his interrogators’ demands and falsely confessed to having been trained at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan.
The only mystery for Arar is why Americans are shocked at reports of torture in Syrian prisons. “What surprises me is the reaction of some people in the West, as if it’s news to them,” he told Foreign Policy. “As far back as the early 1990s ... the State Department reports on Syria have been very blunt — the fact is, Syria tortures people.”
It’s history that the US government knows all too well — because, at times, it has exploited the Assad regime’s brutality for its own ends. Arar was sent to Assad’s prisons by the US: in Sept 2002, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detained him during a layover at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. US officials believed, partially on the basis of inaccurate information provided by Canada, that Arar was a member of Al Qaeda. read more>>>