DAMASCUS, Syria, July 3 (UPI) -- A human rights group accused Syria Tuesday of running 27 detention centers in which ill-treatment and torture of detainees constitute crimes against humanity.
The Human Rights Watch report, "Torture Archipelago: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture and Enforced Disappearances in Syria's Underground Prisons since March 2011," is based on more than 200 interviews with former detainees and defectors conducted by Human Rights Watch since the start of anti-government demonstrations in Syria in March 2011.
"The [Syrian] intelligence agencies are running an archipelago of torture centers scattered across the country," Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a release. "By publishing their locations, describing the torture methods and identifying those in charge, we are putting those responsible on notice that they will have to answer for these horrific crimes."
Human Rights Watch called on the U.N. Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court and urged it to adopt targeted sanctions against officials credibly implicated in the abuses.
Almost all the former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were either subjected to torture or witnessed others being tortured, the organization said. Human Rights Watch said it documented more than 20 torture methods, including prolonged beatings, often with objects such as batons and cables, holding detainees in painful stress positions for lengthy periods of time, using electricity, burning with acid, sexual assault and humiliation, and mock executions.
While most of the torture victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch were men ages of 18 to 35, the victims interviewed also included children, women and the elderly, the organization said.
The report listed the four principal security agencies it said conducted "the worst torture," including military intelligence, the Political Security Directorate, the General Intelligence Directorate and the Air Force Intelligence Directorate.
The report also included a chart of detention centers, the agency running it and the location. The organization said the actual number of detention facilities used by intelligence agencies likely is higher.
"The reach and inhumanity of this network of torture centers are truly horrific," Solvang said. "Russia should not be holding its protective hand over the people who are responsible for this."
The Syrian Network for Human Rights released a report Tuesday detailing death tolls across the country throughout the month of June, which the report calls Syria's bloodiest month so far.
At least 2,336 people were confirmed dead at the hands of military and security forces, 203 of whom were children and 225 of which were women. The report said there was an average of 80 people killed a day during June.
A joint report released by the Syrian Network for Human Rights and the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies named 72 victims killed by a bomb planted by security forces in the city of Zamalka Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, 85 Syrian soldiers, including a general and 14 other officers, fled into Turkey overnight with more than 200 family members, Turkish news media said.
The defections -- the largest single-day exodus from Syrian President Bashar Assad's army -- came as Syrian opposition figures gathered in Cairo to devise a unified strategy for pressuring Assad to step down as part of a solution to the 16-month-old bloody conflict the United Nations says has led to more than 10,000 deaths.
Some rebel groups and observers put the death toll at more than 14,000.
The Financial Times quoted activists close to the insurgent Free Syrian Army as saying a general who defected was associated with non-conventional weapons. It was not immediately clear if this was the same general Today's Zaman cited.
The activists told the Financial Times they expected the general would help them restructure the leadership of the rebels.
Turkey, a former close Syrian ally, permits the 11-month-old Free Syrian Army -- made up mostly of former Syrian army personnel -- to operate from bases inside the Turkish border.
Turkey houses more than 35,000 Syrian civilians who sought refuge from the conflict.
News of the defections came as 250 members of Syria's fractious opposition movement met in Cairo to try to develop a unified strategy for pressuring Assad to step down as part of a solution to the conflict.
In Cairo, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Araby urged Assad opponents to put aside "any narrow differences or factional disputes" and seize the opportunity to provide the international community a single force around which it can rally.
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