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As a new report more than doubles the death toll in Syria, rights groups launch charter for the recording of civilian casualties in conflict.
The best known case of a child tortured and killed came at the end of May when the mutilated body of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khateeb was returned to his parents in the southern province of Daraa, where the uprising was triggered in March following the detention and torture of children.
Hamza's body bore signs of brutal torture including lacerations, bruises and burns to his feet, elbows, face and knees, consistent with the use of electric shock devices and of being whipped with cable, both techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch as being used in Syrian prisons.
“It is difficult to second guess the motivation for torturing and killing children in custody,” Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International's Syria researcher told GlobalPost. “It may be that the Syrian security forces hope to terrify people off the streets with the threat of what could happen to their children.”
Amnesty has documented 10 cases of children dying in custody since the beginning of the uprising, some of them mutilated either before or after death.
Of the 2,404 male civilians verified as killed since mid-March, the Avaaz report states 159 were tortured to death.
Last month, Amnesty reported documenting the cases of at least 52 Syrians who suffered torture, which caused or contributed to their deaths in custody between April 1 and Aug. 15 this year.
Over the past 10 years prior to the uprising, Amnesty documented 45 cases in Syria of deaths in custody due to torture.
The evidence for protesters being tortured to death in Syrian jails was further corroborated in startling video testimony by the defected Attorney General of Hama, a city that has been a center of rebellion against the Assad regime.
Adnan al-Bakkour said he had been forced to sign off on the burial of 17 people who had died under torture in Hama and that he knew of 320 detainees who had been tortured in custody.
The Avaaz report also documents the deaths of 278 soldiers, all of them male conscripts from regular divisions of the Syrian army, as compared to the professional paid soldiers of the elite Fourth Division, commanded by Assad’s brother Maher.
The Fourth Division has led most of the assaults on the key centers of protest across Syria.
More than 100 of the soldiers died from gunshots to the upper body, three were strangled to death and 94 of the bodies showed marks of severe torture, the report found.
Four army officers were also killed, all of them shot in the head. The finding is consistent with testimony from defected soldiers that those refusing orders have been executed by their superior officers.
Four pro-Assad thugs, known as shabiha, were killed by Syrian civilians in Homs in an ambush while a further three were shot repeatedly before or after death, the report said.
“Casualties of armed violence are not numbers, they are real people who had dreams, sorrows and joys,” said Wissam Tarif, executive director of Insan, speaking at the launch of the Charter.
“They left behind families and friends — many who are angry, many who are sad. Recognizing the casualties of armed violence is recognizing a better future.”