Report: 11,000 Syrians murdered in Assad's jails

What some prosecutors are calling "industrial scale killing," a Syrian military photographer who has since defected, took pictures that analysts say prove the killing of 11,000 Syrians in government prisons.

Reuters:

A Syrian military police photographer has supplied "clear evidence" showing the systematic torture and killing of about 11,000 detainees in circumstances that evoked Nazi death camps, former war crimes prosecutors said.

Syrian officials could face war crimes charges as a result of the evidence provided by the photographer, who has defected, the three prosecutors said.

One of the prosecutors said the evidence documented "industrial scale killing" that was reminiscent of the World War II concentration camps of Belsen and Auschwitz.

The trove of harrowing photographs ratchets up the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who the United States and its Western allies say has committed war crimes against his own people during the civil war.

Assad, once courted by Western leaders and now supported by Russia and Iran, has denied war crimes, saying he is fighting "terrorists" who want to use Syria to sow chaos across the Middle East.

But 55,000 images provided by the photographer, who fled Syria after passing the pictures to Assad's opponents, show emaciated and mutilated corpses.

Bearing signs of torture, some of the corpses had no eyes. Others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution.

"There is clear evidence, capable of being believed by a tribunal of fact in a court of law, of systematic torture and killing of detained persons by the agents of the Syrian government," the three prosecutors said in the 31-page report.

"Such evidence would support findings of crimes against humanity against the current Syrian regime. Such evidence could also support findings of war crimes against the current Syrian regime," they said.

The report was published as opposing sides in Syria's civil war gathered for internationally sponsored peace talks in Switzerland.

As with everything related to Syria, a large grain of salt must be taken with this evidence.

Who compiled the report? Who wrote it?

The images he took were passed to the Syrian National Movement, which is supported by the Gulf state of Qatar. Lawyers acting for Qatar, London-based Carter-Ruck and Co., commissioned the examination of the evidence.

Reuters has reviewed the report but it was not possible to determine the authenticity of Caesar's photographs or to contact Caesar. It was not possible to get an immediate response from the Syrian government.

The three former prosecutors, who worked at the criminal war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, examined the evidence and interviewed the source in three sessions in the last 10 days. They found him credible.

"The inquiry team found that the witness codenamed 'Caesar' was not only credible but that his account was most compelling," said the document, entitled "A report into the credibility of certain evidence with regard to torture and execution of persons incarcerated by the current Syrian regime."

The defector comes to us via the Syrian opposition while the prosectors involved in writing the report may - or may not - be independent. And while the evidence should certainly be examined, I don't think you can make a definitive judgment on its authenticity or accuracy based on what we have so far.

I doubt even if the reports are accurate that Assad will ever be arrested and tried for war crimes. But if anything, the report should give some impetus to peace talks beginning in Switzerland this week.



What some prosecutors are calling "industrial scale killing," a Syrian military photographer who has since defected, took pictures that analysts say prove the killing of 11,000 Syrians in government prisons.

Reuters:

A Syrian military police photographer has supplied "clear evidence" showing the systematic torture and killing of about 11,000 detainees in circumstances that evoked Nazi death camps, former war crimes prosecutors said.

Syrian officials could face war crimes charges as a result of the evidence provided by the photographer, who has defected, the three prosecutors said.

One of the prosecutors said the evidence documented "industrial scale killing" that was reminiscent of the World War II concentration camps of Belsen and Auschwitz.

The trove of harrowing photographs ratchets up the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who the United States and its Western allies say has committed war crimes against his own people during the civil war.

Assad, once courted by Western leaders and now supported by Russia and Iran, has denied war crimes, saying he is fighting "terrorists" who want to use Syria to sow chaos across the Middle East.

But 55,000 images provided by the photographer, who fled Syria after passing the pictures to Assad's opponents, show emaciated and mutilated corpses.

Bearing signs of torture, some of the corpses had no eyes. Others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution.

"There is clear evidence, capable of being believed by a tribunal of fact in a court of law, of systematic torture and killing of detained persons by the agents of the Syrian government," the three prosecutors said in the 31-page report.

"Such evidence would support findings of crimes against humanity against the current Syrian regime. Such evidence could also support findings of war crimes against the current Syrian regime," they said.

The report was published as opposing sides in Syria's civil war gathered for internationally sponsored peace talks in Switzerland.

As with everything related to Syria, a large grain of salt must be taken with this evidence.

Who compiled the report? Who wrote it?

The images he took were passed to the Syrian National Movement, which is supported by the Gulf state of Qatar. Lawyers acting for Qatar, London-based Carter-Ruck and Co., commissioned the examination of the evidence.

Reuters has reviewed the report but it was not possible to determine the authenticity of Caesar's photographs or to contact Caesar. It was not possible to get an immediate response from the Syrian government.

The three former prosecutors, who worked at the criminal war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, examined the evidence and interviewed the source in three sessions in the last 10 days. They found him credible.

"The inquiry team found that the witness codenamed 'Caesar' was not only credible but that his account was most compelling," said the document, entitled "A report into the credibility of certain evidence with regard to torture and execution of persons incarcerated by the current Syrian regime."

The defector comes to us via the Syrian opposition while the prosectors involved in writing the report may - or may not - be independent. And while the evidence should certainly be examined, I don't think you can make a definitive judgment on its authenticity or accuracy based on what we have so far.

I doubt even if the reports are accurate that Assad will ever be arrested and tried for war crimes. But if anything, the report should give some impetus to peace talks beginning in Switzerland this week.



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