Syria continues chemical weapons reduction

But torture comes under U.N. scrutiny

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GENEVA -- After lengthy delays in loading its chemical weapons for destruction abroad, Syria has completed delivery of another shipment that brings the total to almost two-thirds of its arsenal, the international watchdog overseeing the process reported Monday.

But at the same time, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay in a new report condemned "rampant" and "routine" use of torture by the Syrian authorities.

The delivery of chemical agents to the Syrian port of Latakia, completed Sunday, was the second in three days. It raised the share of Syrian chemical agents handed over for destruction to slightly more than 65 percent, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement from its headquarters in The Hague. The country has now delivered a bit more than 57 percent of its most dangerous, so-called Priority One chemicals, and 82 percent of less toxic, Priority Two chemicals, said organization spokesman Michael Luhan.

The shipment was "necessary and encouraging," the organization's director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said in a statement, but he made clear that it had not dispelled concerns about whether Syria would meet its deadline for completing destruction of chemical agents by the end of April. "Both the frequency and volumes of deliveries have to increase significantly to restore alignment of actual movements against the projected time frame" for completing the destruction of chemical weapons, Mr. Uzumcu said.

Syria had originally committed to destroy all of its chemical agents by early February, but it missed that deadline after several weeks passed without any shipments to Latakia, where international vessels collect them. The chemicals are then transported to a U.S. ship, the Cape Ray, which is fitted with special equipment for their destruction, or to special facilities, most of which are in Europe.

Syria also faces criticism over its proposal to seal off 12 chemical arms production facilities that Western governments contend should be destroyed. Mr. Luhan said Syria's proposals are still under consideration by the executive council of his organization.

The paper released Monday by Ms. Pillay's office in Geneva records torture not only by Syrian authorities, but also by some armed opposition groups as well as serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment of children.

"Upon arrival at a detention facility, detainees are routinely beaten and humiliated for several hours by the guards in what has come to be known as the 'reception party,' " the report states, drawing on 38 interviews U.N. investigators conducted over the past eight months with individuals released from detention centers across Syria.

"Our findings confirm that torture is being routinely used in government detention facilities in Syria, and that torture is also used by some armed groups," Ms. Pillay said.

"In armed conflict, torture constitutes a war crime. When it is used in a systematic or widespread manner, which is almost certainly the case in Syria, it also amounts to a crime against humanity."

Among those interviewed, a 26-year-old woman detained for more than two weeks described how security forces beat her and pulled out her teeth during interrogation sessions held every night, and how, one morning, she was tied up and raped by a security officer.

It also cites the account of a 60-year-old man who had spent three months in different detention centers and described how every day, "cellmates were taken for 30 or 45 minutes of interrogation and came back with their faces bleeding, barely able to walk, and with open wounds that remained untreated and became infected."

Such cases were "illustrative of a much broader pattern of torture and ill-treatment," the paper noted. "Men, women and children have been routinely picked up from the street, their homes and workplaces, or arrested at government-manned checkpoints," the paper said.


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