WEB DESK: Throughout the civil war in Syria, al-Assad’s regime has denied accusations of human rights abuses and blamed “terrorists” for the deadly violence but a new report shows the other side of the picture.
It reveals that there is a direct link between “systematic torture and killing” by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
A team of internationally renowned war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts worked on the report which is based on thousands of photographs of dead bodies of alleged detainees killed in Syrian government custody,
The report would be presented in an international criminal tribunal.
“This is a smoking gun,” said David Crane, the first chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and one of the report’s authors. “Any prosecutor would like this kind of evidence — the photos and the process. This is direct evidence of the regime’s killing machine.
The bodies in the photos showed signs of starvation, brutal beatings, strangulation, and other forms of torture and killing, according to the report.
In a group of photos of 150 individuals examined in detail by the experts, 62% of the bodies showed emaciation — severely low body weight with a hollow appearance indicating starvation. The majority of all of the victims were men most likely aged 20-40.
A complex numbering system was also used to catalog the corpses, with only the relevant intelligence service knowing the identities of the corpses.
It was an effort, the report says, to keep track of which security service was responsible for the death, and then later to provide false documentation that the person had died in a hospital.
One of the three lawyers who authored the report — Sir Desmond de Silva, the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone — said the images are similar to those of Holocaust survivors.
The emaciated bodies were the product of starvation as a method of torture, “reminiscent of the pictures of those [who] were found still alive in the Nazi death camps after World War II,” he said in an interview with CNN.
“This evidence could underpin a charge of crimes against humanity — without any shadow of a doubt,” de Silva told CNN.
“Of course, it’s not for us to make a decision. All we can do is evaluate the evidence and say this evidence is capable of being accepted by a tribunal as genuine.”
The report draws its evidence from the testimony of a Syrian government defector codenamed “Caesar” who provided 27,000 photograph in a total of 55,000 such images.
According to the report, Caesar worked as photographer in the military police. Once the war broke out, his work consisted entirely of documenting “killed detainees.”
He claimed to have photographed as many as 50 bodies a day.
At one point he took the unusual step of photographing a group of bodies to show that it “looked like a slaughterhouse,” according to the report.
The authors of the report say that the fact that all the bodies were photographed strongly suggests that “the killings were systematic, ordered, and directed from above.”
“It’s a callous, industrial machine grinding its citizens,” Crane said to CNN. “It is industrial age mass killing.”
The killings may have been so thoroughly documented as a way of proving each person’s death without allowing the deceased’s family to see the body, the report suggests.
Also, it may have been aimed at proving that “orders to execute individuals had been carried out.”
Another possibility that the authors suggest is that the photographing was simply the way it had always been done this way which indicates that it is a long-time practice.
The report was authored by de Silva, Crane, and Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice, former lead prosecutor against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Its release comes just days ahead of the Geneva II conference, the latest push for a diplomatic solution to Syria’s bloody civil war.
The lawyers were hired to write the report by the British law firm Carter-Ruck, which in turn was funded by the Government of Qatar, de Silva told CNN.