A team of lawyers, doctors and professors specializing in the prosecution of war crimes and forensic evidence issued a report (PDF) Jan. 20 including numerous photographs alleged to be "clear evidence'" of torture and systematic killings amounting to war crimes in Syria. The report is derived from almost 27,000 photographs which were obtained by a former military police officer in Syria who has since defected. The defector's role was to photograph the bodies of deceased individuals brought from detention facilities to a military hospital, which could reach up to 50 bodies a day. The report documents starvation, brutal beatings, strangulation, and other forms of systematic killings, and the majority of the victims are men aged between 20-40. The report stands by the defector's credibility, who was interviewed over three sessions in the previous 10 days. The report arrived just 48 hours before the Geneva II Conference on Syria is scheduled to commence in Switzerland on Jan. 22, with intense political posturing surrounding the UN backed conference.
The Syrian civil war has persisted for almost three years, and there is mounting international pressure to find an end to the conflict. The main opposition group within Syria, the Syrian National Coalition, recently agreed to attend the Geneva II conference after an invitation to Iran was rescinded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Jan. 19. Following Iran's original invitation to Geneva II, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition announced it would refuse to attend the peace talks if Iran was in attendance.
UN pressure on Syria has mounted in the last month as evidence revealed signs of war crimes in the country. Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned Syrian opposition groups that eyewitness reports of mass executions point to mass violations of human rights that may amount to war crimes.
From Juriist, Jan. 21. Used with permission.
Syria: “industrial-scale” massacres
Amnesty International in a statement on the new report of Syrian atrocities urges that world leaders at the Geneva conference "must demand full access to investigate allegations that 11,000 people have been tortured and killed while in detention in the country." Amnesty cites one of the report's authors, Sir Desmond de Silva QC, as saying that the evidence "documented industrial-scale killing."
De Silva is former chief prosecutor of the special court for Sierra Leone. The other two principal authors are Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, former lead prosecutor of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, and Prof. David Crane, who indicted President Charles Taylor of Liberia at the Sierra Leone court. The Guardian infroms us that the thousands of images on which the report is based were smuggled out of Syria by a defector, identified only as "Caesar" for security reasons, who was a photographer with the regime's military police. Ceasar turned memory sticks with the images over to a contact in the Syrian National Movement, which is apparently supported by Qatar. The Guardian emphasizes: "Qatar, which has financed and armed rebel groups, has called for the overthrow of Assad and demanded his prosecution."