ICRC granted access to prison in Damascus for first time

5th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday it was for the first time granted access to a Syrian detention centre.

"The Syrian authorities have granted the ICRC access to a place of detention for the first time," ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger, who held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday, said in a statement.

He said the ICRC was able to visit the Damascus Central Prison in the suburb of Adra on Sunday.

"Initially, we will have access to persons detained by the Ministry of the Interior, and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to visit all detainees," Kellenberger said.

"This is an important step forward for our humanitarian activities in Syria," he said.

During talks with Assad, Kellenberger said he discussed the use of force by security forces and the need to respect the physical and psychological well-being of the detainees, as well as the latest developments in the country since his last visit in June.

"The purpose of these visits ... is to ensure that detainees are treated humanely and that their dignity is respected and preserved," the ICRC said.

Kellenberger also said that his main concern was to ensure that the wounded and sick are able to obtain medical care.

More than 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since almost daily mass protests began on March 15, according to the United Nations, and activists say over 10,000 have been arrested.

According to Amnesty international, the number of deaths in Syrian prisons rose sharply in 2011, describing it as one of the "most shocking features" of the regime's crackdown.

"No less than 88 such deaths have been reported to Amnesty International as occurring during the period from April 1 and August 15," including 10 children aged between 13 and 18, the human rights group said at the end of August.

For at least 52 of them, Amnesty said "there is evidence that torture caused or contributed to the deaths."

© 2011 AFP

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