Damascus Central Prison (Adra Prison)

Still in use

Damascus Central Prison, often referred to as Adra Prison, is the largest Syrian civilian prison. Its administrators have faced accusations of poor treatment and even torture which led to protests by detainees in 2007 and 2009. Since 2011, conditions have worsened. Reports from 2014 estimate the number of detainees at between 7,000 and 10,000 (SCTJ). Cells contain 32 beds and rarely hold fewer than 50 detainees. In response to overcrowding and because of the precarious location of the prison, prison administrators have often limited prisoners’ access to electricity and access to food.

Prisoners went on hunger strikes against the extremely poor conditions in 2011 and 2014. Adra [Damascus Central] Prison has a comparatively large number of female prisoners, many of whom were reportedly raped and tortured during their detention (Orient News). A report from 2013 indicates that there were no doctors specializing in women’s health in the facility and receiving medical care outside the facility has often been restricted (VDC).

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, one former female detainee recounted several hours of daily torture during which prisoners were hung on hangers, beaten with wet sticks and exposed to electrical shocks. Her husband was in the same facility and he faced similar conditions. According to her, he “had not been able to stand the daily torture anymore (AA).” He died shortly after her last encounter with him.

The prison has been directly affected by fighting  several times. Reports indicate that prisoners died in bombings in 2015 and 2017. According to Asharq al-Awsat, 672 prisoners were released in June 2017, many of whom had been imprisoned for participation in protests against the regime. However, many detainees are still being held without trial, including at least one who has been awaiting trial for over 5 years (Asharq al-Awsat).

Shells target areas of Adra Prison and a hospital in the suburbs of Damascus and its outskirts
Shells target areas of Adra Prison and a hospital in the suburbs of Damascus and its outskirts