The US Treasury Department on Wednesday announced sanctions on eight Syrian prisons operated by President Bashar al-Assad’s intelligence agencies, citing human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees.
The department also approved five senior Syrian government officials controlling these detention centres.
“The Assad regime has waged a brutal war against the Syrian people, imprisoning hundreds of thousands of Syrians calling for reform and change, at least 14,000 of whom have been sentenced to death,” the Treasury Department said in a statement. has been given.” The statement added that “more than 130,000 people are reportedly missing or arbitrarily detained” by Syrian government security forces.
The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on a Syrian armed group, Ahrar al-Sharqiya, and two of its leaders for abuses against civilians.
murder, kidnapping, torture
According to the Treasury, Ahrar al-Sharqiya, operating in northern Syria, has committed several crimes against civilians, especially Syrian Kurds, including unlawful killings, kidnappings, torture and confiscation of personal property.
The Treasury said the armed group has also included former members of the Islamic State terrorist group in its ranks.
“Today’s designations promote accountability for abuses committed against the Syrian people and deny rogue actors access to the international financial system,” said Andrea M. Gacki, director of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control.
“This action demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to targeting human rights abuses in Syria, regardless of perpetrator,” he said.
Rights experts said the designations reflect a balanced approach by the US government to what has been happening in Syria over the years.
“The Syrian regime and rebel groups such as Ahrar al-Sharqiya alike have committed serious human rights abuses throughout Syria. Exposing them is a very positive step by the US,” said Bassam al-Ahmad, executive director of Syrians for Truth and Justice, an advocacy group that documents human rights violations in Syria.
“There are many other armed groups in Syria that share the same ideology as ISIS” [IS], and the US should target them too,” he told VOA.
What is Ahrar al-Sharkiya?
Ahrar al-Sharqiya became a key militia in the Syrian conflict after a Turkish-led incursion into mostly Kurdish territory in October 2019. The Syrian group, along with several other Turkish-backed factions, controls parts of northern Syria.
The Treasury said Ahmed al-Hayes, commonly known as Abu Hatem Shakra, is one of two leaders of a group targeted by US sanctions that is directly involved in the human rights abuses of the militia.
It said al-Hayes commanded the prison of Ahrar al-Sharqiya outside Aleppo, where hundreds of detainees have been executed since 2018. She has been implicated in the trafficking of Yazidi women and children and integrated former members of IS into the ranks of Ahrar al-. Sharqiya, according to the Treasury.
Aykan Erdemir, a senior analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, said Ahrar al-Sharkiya’s designation of the Treasury sent a strong message to Ankara.
“Partnership Between” [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] The Erdogan government and Ahrar al-Sharqiya have prompted Ankara to turn a blind eye to the terrorist group’s numerous crimes against humanity targeting ethnic and religious minorities in parts of northern Syria under Turkish direct or indirect control. He told VOA.
Erdemir said Washington’s designation of Ahrar al-Sharkiya shows that “when it comes to the use of the Erdogan government as a proxy in Syria of former jihadists in Syria in ways that undermine US efforts against ISIS So the patience of the Biden administration is waning.”