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Syria accused of ‘industrial-scale killing’

Investigators say most of the bodies seen in photos were emaciated; many had been beaten or strangled

Published: Updated:

Syria has been accused of "industrial-scale killing" and torture in a report by three former war crime international prosecutors, the Guardian and CNN reported on Monday.

The 31-page document was based on evidence of a defector and was commissioned by Qatar, a supporter of the Syrian opposition.

Photographic evidence of the abuse released in the report.
Photographic evidence of the abuse released in the report.

The informant, who remains unidentified for security purposes, is a photographer who claims to have defected from the Syrian military police.

He 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.

Photographic evidence of the abuse released in the report.
Photographic evidence of the abuse released in the report.

Some of the detainees had no eyes while others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution, according to the report.

“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.

The report relies on the unauthenticated testimony and photographs given by the source.

Photographic evidence of the abuse released in the report.
Photographic evidence of the abuse released in the report.

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.

De Silva told the Guardian that the evidence provided the “smoking gun” proving that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had carried out “industrial-scale killing.”

Photographic evidence of the abuse released in the report.
Photographic evidence of the abuse released in the report.

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.

Another author of the report, Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice told the BBC’s Newsday program that the scale and consistency of the killings provided strong evidence of government involvement that could support a criminal prosecution.