By: OnIslam & News Agencies
A new investigative report by world renowned war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts has stirred international condemnations for the Syrian regime after finding a proof that Bashar Al-Assad has systematically tortured and executed thousands of detainees since the start of 2011 uprising.
It “underscores that it makes it even more important that we make progress [at Geneva II]. The situation on the ground is so horrific that we need to get a political transition in place, and we need to get the Assad regime out of power,” US state department spokeswoman Marie Harf was quoted by BBC on Wednesday, January 22.
She added: “Obviously we condemn these reports in the strongest possible terms.
“These most recent images are extremely disturbing; they are horrible to look at and they illustrate apparent actions that would be serious international crimes, and we have long said that those responsible for these kinds of serious violations in Syria must be held to account.”
Published on Monday, January 20, the report preceded the opening of peace talks in Switzerland on Tuesday.
The publishers said that the report release appears timed to coincide with the conference, opening in the resort town of Montreux, and continuing in Geneva two days later.
Commissioned in Qatar, the report is based on the evidence of a defected military police photographer, referred to only as Caesar, who along with others reportedly smuggled about 55,000 digital images of some 11,000 dead detainees out of Syria.
Caesar told investigators his job had been to take photographs of corpses, both to allow a death certificate to be produced and to confirm that execution orders had been carried out.
“There could be as many as 50 bodies a day to photograph which require 15 to 30 minutes of work per corpse,” he is quoted as saying.
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.
“This is a smoking gun,” David Crane, one of the report’s authors, published exclusively by CNN and UK’s The Guardian, told CNN on Monday, January 20.
“Any prosecutor would like this kind of evidence — the photos and the process. This is direct evidence of the regime’s killing machine.”
According to forensic pathologist Stuart Hamilton, the images he saw for a large number of detainees reflected an “evidence of significant starvation”.
He said that many looked as if they had been bound or restrained.
“There were a large number who had been beaten. And there were a significant minority who had clearly been strangled,” he said.
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,” Sir Desmond de Silva, the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
De Silva, one of the three lawyers who authored the report, likened the images to those of Holocaust survivors.
“This evidence could underpin a charge of crimes against humanity — without any shadow of a doubt,” de Silva added.
“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.”
As a Syrian regime spokesman questioned the authenticity of the report, as it was commissioned by Qatar which supports rebels, a prominent Syrian opposition group charged the pictures demonstrate “industrial killing” by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The Syrian Coalition also urged world leaders Tuesday “to exert all possible pressure on the regime to step aside and allow Syrians to realize their desire for a free country.”
Earlier, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed similar sentiments.
“I’ve seen a lot of this evidence, it is compelling and horrific. And it is important that those who have perpetrated these crimes are one day held to account,” Hague told the House of Commons, the BBC reported.
Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has also expressed concerns over the “alarming” report.
“This report is extremely alarming, and the alleged scale of the deaths in detention, if verified, is truly horrifying,” Pillay told Agence France Presse (AFP).