Last updated: 31 August, 2011

Hundreds killed in Syria protests during Ramadan

A total of 473 people were killed during protests in the just-ending Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in Syria, a rights group said on Wednesday.

The death toll comprised 360 civilians and 113 members of the security forces and army, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The civilians included 25 people aged under 18, 14 women and 28 who died in detention or under torture, the observatory said, mainly in the region of Homs where government forces were reported to be conducting new operations Wednesday.

Almost daily protests have taken place against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad since mid-March, in the face of a crackdown which according to UN figures has killed at least 2,200 people.

The observatory said that the security forces had returned the bodies of 13 people to their families, at least five of whom were still alive when they were arrested in early August.

Amnesty International said in a separate report that it had heard of 88 deaths in custody between April 1 and August 15, including 10 children aged between 13 and 18.

For at least 52 of them, Amnesty said “there is evidence that torture caused or contributed to the deaths,” citing signs of violent beatings, burn marks and cuts.

Some had been mutilated “before or after death in particularly grotesque ways apparently intended to strike terror into the families to whom their corpses were returned.”

“Such an increase in deaths cannot be a coincidence. It appears to be the expression of the same brutal violence that is being shown daily in the Syrian streets,” said Reto Rufer, who heads the Middle East for the Swiss chapter of Amnesty International.