In a report released on Thursday, Amnesty International has condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham for “serious rights abuses” — some of which “amount to war crimes” — across northern Syria. These include abductions, arbitrary detention, torture, and unlawful killings.

The introduction to the report:

Syria: Harrowing torture, summary killings in secret ISIS detention centres

This briefing describes serious abuses of
human rights committed in detention
facilities run by the Islamic State of Iraq
and al-Sham (ISIS), an armed
opposition group that currently controls
significant swathes of territory and
people in northern Syria.

In the areas they control, ISIS forces
have committed numerous serious rights
abuses, including some that amount to
war crimes; they include abductions,
arbitrary detention, torture, and other ill-treatment and unlawful killings.

Those targeted by ISIS for abduction and
arbitrary detention have included a wide
range of individuals, including people suspected of committing ordinary crimes,
such as theft or murder, and others
accused of committing religiously prohibited acts, such as zina (sex out of
wedlock) and alcohol consumption. As well, ISIS forces have targeted local people suspected
of organizing protests and opposition to their rule, including community activists and members of local councils set up to provide services to residents following the withdrawal of
Syrian government forces, other civil society and media activists, and commanders and
members of rival armed groups, including those operating as part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). ISIS is also alleged to have abducted foreign nationals, including journalists, staff of
international organizations and religious figures.

This briefing is based on research conducted between 20 November and 5 December 2013
by an Amnesty International researcher who visited Gaziantep, Nizip and Akçakale in Turkey
to interview former detainees held by ISIS in northern Syria. Amnesty International
interviewed nine former detainees in person, separately, and spoke to another earlier by
telephone. The former detainees interviewed had been abducted and detained by ISIS forces
in al-Raqqa governorate and Aleppo city. They had spent periods ranging from a few hours to
55 days in ISIS detention, all between May and November 2013. All left northern Syria or
went to Turkey after their release by ISIS forces but at least one continues to move between
the two countries. All expressed fear for their own safety and that of their relatives, some of
whom remain in Syria. They agreed to speak to Amnesty International on condition that the
organization should not publish their names or other details that could expose their identities.

The accounts they gave provide a chilling picture of conditions in detention facilities run by
ISIS in northern Syria. The former detainees described how they and others were seized
arbitrarily by armed men wearing masks and carted off to places of detention whose location
they frequently did not know and where they had no contact with their families or the outside
world. Often, they had little idea why they had been detained and only fears as to what might
become of them. Some encountered children in detention, including boys who were
threatened and flogged; one spoke of being present in a cell with a father as he heard his 13-
year-old son apparently being tortured but was powerless to act. Others spoke of prisoners
being flogged on the orders of a man whom ISIS had apparently appointed as a Shari’a court
judge, but who showed not the least respect for any sense of due process and summarily
ordered detainees to be taken to be killed, including a prisoner who had the temerity to mock
him behind his back.

The former detainees all shared a sense of relief at their release from detention and escape
from the area controlled by ISIS but they remained acutely concerned for their relatives and
others that they left in detention and who remain vulnerable to ISIS’s cruel, capricious and
arbitrary rule. They asked that the world should wake up to the plight of those now suffering
under ISIS in northern Syria.

ISIS’s domination has grown significantly over the months following its declared formation in
April 2013, particularly in areas in northern Syria that have come under opposition forces as
the Syrian conflict continues to degenerate into a war of attrition between the forces of the
government of President Bashar al-Assad and a proliferation of often mutually antagonistic
armed groups, including groups composed of foreign fighters. With more than 100,000
Syrians killed since anti-government protests broke out in early 2011 and millions of other
Syrians either internally displaced or now refugees abroad, the conflict has wrought, and
continues to wreak, a terrible toll. It has been marked on all sides by criminal disdain for
international principles relating to the protection of civilians and the conduct of warfare:
government forces have repeatedly attacked civilian residential areas using aircraft and
artillery, used snipers to shoot down civilians on the streets, and tortured detainees, including
children, on an industrial scale. They also stand accused of deploying chemical weapons. For
their part, opposition forces have also carried out gross abuses of human rights, including
torture and summary killing of captured soldiers and other detainees and car bomb and other
attacks targeting areas in which civilians who support the government reside. The situation
has continued to deteriorate, notwithstanding international efforts to address the threat of
chemical weapons, as arms and fighters have continued to flood in from abroad and fighting
and control of territory and people has become localized and fragmented.

ISIS, which is linked to al-Qa’ida in Iraq, is an armed opposition group whose fighters, all
Sunni Muslims, are drawn from many countries. They reportedly include individuals with previous experience of armed conflicts in Chechnya and Iraq and militants drawn from a
range of countries including Tunisia and Morocco in North Africa and states in the Gulf, as
well as Syrian fighters. They claim to advocate a strict form of Shari’a rule and use extreme
force to impose it in areas that they control or where they are present. In Syria, they are
reported to have been responsible for a number of bombings of targets in government-held
areas, some of which caused civilian deaths and injuries, to have assassinated commanders
of other armed opposition groups, such as the FSA, and to have tortured and executed
captured members of rival armed groups. It is unclear how they are financed but widely
believed that they have received support from Sunni Muslim sources within Gulf states. It is
believed that they have also made extensive use of Turkey in order to gain entry into Syria and
to bring in fresh fighters, arms and other supplies.

Amnesty International is urging ISIS to end its reign of abuse in northern Syria, including the
abductions, torture and unlawful killings of detainees and others, and to respect the human
rights of the area’s beleaguered population and others who come under its control. It is also
appealing to the government of Turkey and other governments to take urgent, concrete steps
to cut off the flow of arms and other support to ISIS on account of its human rights record
and violations of international humanitarian law, and renewing its call to the UN Security
Council to refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Read full report….

VIDEO: Protest against ISIS in Raqqa, September 2013