A team of senior war crimes prosecutors released a report on Monday accusing the Syrian regime of carrying out “systemic torture and killings” of thousands of men who are thought to be victims of the regime’s notorious security agencies.
The 31-page document was commissioned by Qatar, a key backer of the Syrian rebels, and given to CNN and The Guardian a day before Syrian peace talks were due to be held in Geneva.
The report was written by 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.
The document relies on the unauthenticated testimony and photographs given by the source, who remains unidentified for security purposes.
The informant, a photographer who claims to have defected from the Syrian military police, presented forensic experts commissioned by the London legal firm representing Qatar with around 55,000 digital images of 11,000 dead detainees.
He claims they died in captivity before being taken to a military hospital to be photographed.
“Overall there was evidence that a significant number of the deceased were emaciated and a significant minority had been bound and/or beaten with rod-like objects,” said the report.
‘Smoking gun’ evidence against Assad
Some had no eyes while others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution, according to the 31-page document.
De Silva told the Guardian that the evidence provided the “smoking gun” proving that the regime of Bashar al-Assad had carried out “industrial-scale killing.”
Crane called the evidence “amazing” and suggested there was a strong case for prosecution.
“Now we have direct evidence of what was happening to people who had disappeared,” he explained. “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 authors said they found the informant and his evidence to be credible after subjecting them to “rigorous scrutiny” and have made their findings available to the United Nations, governments and human rights groups.
Sunni Qatar was quick to back rebels who rose up in 2011 against the rule of Assad, who is backed by Shia powerhouse Iran.