amnesty international reported on Tuesday that almost 13,000 opponents of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad were tortured and hanged between 2011 and 2015, during the first years of the Syrian civil war. These were all carried out at the country's infamous Saydnaya Prison, with reports stating that these were ordered by the highest levels within the Government itself.

The report described conditions within the prison as appalling and described how inmates had been tortured and abused deliberately. Even for a conflict that has cost over 400,000 lives since it began, the report highlights state-sanctioned killings and abuses that had been previously either been unknown or simply ignored.

Whilst the estimated number of 13,000 deaths is mentioned in the report, it is likely that the current total is significantly higher, as Amnesty International has not had verifiable information to investigate further since 2015.

Internal Information

The information for the report was gathered from former inmates and prison guards at Saydnaya Prison. The guards gave details of a 'red building' where civilians were held alongside a 'white building' that housed military prisoners and consisted of a basement where the reported hangings were carried out. The investigation took a year to complete and was mainly centered around 31 individuals that had been held in both buildings, as well as one military judge.

They gathered that once or twice a week, up to 50 prisoners at a time were hanged following fake trials, after which which their bodies were taken to the nearby Tishreen Hospital and the deaths were registered as heart failures and other fabricated causes.

Amongst the horrific details that have emerged, it was also found that many detainees were able to hear sounds of gurgling from the floor above the basement where the hangings took place. Conditions in the cells were just as barbaric, with reports of floors covered in the blood and puss of prisoners and dead bodies being collected on a daily basis.

Current situation

The report has provided many before and after pictures of prisoners fortunate enough to have been released.

It is clear that their treatment has been horrific. It is also unknown whether the reported treatment of detainees has ceased, as access to information has become significantly difficult to obtain. Nicolette Waldman, the author of the report, states that she "believes it is very likely that the executions are going on to this day and that many thousands more people have been killed." The vast majority of the executions are carried out without fair trials; often any legal procedure is simply a sham, with a former judge stating that the courts operate outside the normal rules of the Syrian legal system.

In most cases those condemned only found out their fate minutes before the sentence was carried out and there is significant evidence of government complicity in the actions carried out at Saydnaya. If this is found to be true, it is a clear case of the government of Syria carrying out war crimes alongside crimes against humanity. It remains to be seen how the international community acts on the findings of this shocking report.