As countries around the world struggle to contain the Coronavirus pandemic, one cannot help but consider the ramifications of the virus for the most vulnerable among us; those detained and displaced. In Syria, where there are huge numbers of both, their situation could be catastrophic.
Syria’s prisons hold tens of thousands of detainees. Many have been arbitrarily detained for their participation in peaceful protests or for expressing dissenting political opinion.
Torture and executions account for many of the thousands of deaths among Syrian government detainees, but prisoners also die because of horrific conditions in prisons. Human Rights Watch interviewed former detainees who described conditions in their cells that violated their rights to health and life, and in some cases, amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment or torture.
As one former detainee told Human Rights Watch in 2015:
“If you took pictures of the detainees now, you would see people who looked like those that are in the Caesar photographs, only they would be alive … The ones who died are the lucky ones.”