The evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed and tortured around 11,000 people is here, according to a report out Tuesday from three top former international prosecutors. The report, which supports the Syrian rebels and was commissioned by Qatar, examined thousands of photographs allegedly smuggled out of the country by a former military police photographer. The photos apparently show evidence of starvation, strangulation, and beatings of the Syrian people by Assad's army.
The report was released ahead of scheduled peace talks in Geneva, aimed at finding a solution to the country's civil war. While Syria denies torturing detainees, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the Guardian the photographs merely confirmed what what we know of Assad's war crimes and provide "further evidence of the systematic violence and brutality being visited upon the people of Syria by the Assad regime."
The report has been authored by a triad of leading prosecutors for war crimes: Desmond de Silva, former chief prosecutor of the special court for Sierra Leone; Geoffrey Nice, the former lead prosecutor in the trial of former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic; and David Crane, who indicted Liberian president Charles Taylor. All three testified to the credibility and significance of evidence featured in the report, with De Silva calling it proof of "industrial-scale" killings, and Crane saying "This is the first provable, direct evidence of what has happened to at least 11,000 human beings who have been tortured and executed and apparently disposed of."
The report says that all the victims, bar one, were male. Most appeared to be aged between 20 and 40 and a "very significant percentage" showed evidence of starvation. The findings have now been made available to the United Nations, governments, and human rights groups.
Approximately 55,000 digital images of 11,000 dead detainees on memory sticks were passed to forensic experts by the defecting photographer, who worked in a military hospital taking the pictures. He claimed that he never saw any of the killings, but had to photograph "up to fifty bodies a day which required fifteen to thirty minutes of work per corpse," according to the report.
He said the purpose of the photos was to be able to issue false death certificates which stated that the victims had died in hospital. Once evidence of the executions had reached the regime, the bodies were then buried in rural areas.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration, which previously voted to destroy Syria's chemical weapons, expressed horror at the report and its evidence.
“These latest reports, and the photographs that support them, demonstrate just how far the regime is willing to go to not only deny freedom and dignity to the Syrian people, but to inflict significant emotional and physical pain in the process. To be sure, these reports suggest widespread and apparently systematic violations of international humanitarian law.”