No place for al-Assad in future Syria
It’s obvious that timing of the release of the report that could lead to prosecuting Bashar al-Assad and other senior regime officials before international courts is well-crafted and on purposely has been procured just on the eve of Geneva II talks.
First let’s see what the report is about in detail. The title of the report is “A Report into the credibility of certain evidence with regard to Torture and Execution of Persons Incarcerated by the current Syrian regime” and has been written by three very senior legal experts with deep expertise on crimes against humanity and war crimes: Sir Desmond de Silva, a former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who brought about the arrest of President Charles Taylor of Liberia. Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice, the former lead prosecutor of ex-President Milosevic of Yugoslavia before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. And Professor David M. Crane, the first Chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who also indicted President Charles Taylor of Liberia.
Appointed directly by the U.N. Secretary-General, de Silva and Crane are well-known architects of the case against Taylor of Liberia, who has been found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed throughout the civil war in the African country.
A 31-page report has been prepared by this team, accompanied by a forensic team, upon the material provided by a Syrian defector who served as a crime scenes photographer during the Syrian civil war.
Codenamed “Caesar,” the defector could smuggle out some tens of thousands of images of corpses so photographed by his colleagues and himself.
“In all, approximately fifty-five thousand (55,000) images have, to date, been made available outside Syria by this process. As there were some four or five photographs taken of each body, this approximates to there being images of about eleven thousand (11,000) dead,” read the report.
Here are some excerpts from the report’s Forensic Findings part that examined 5,500 images in detail which allowed the forensic team to examine around 1,300 individual corpses:
- The vast majority of the images were of young men, most likely between the ages of twenty and forty, with a minority more likely to be up to sixty years old.
- The ligature marks on the necks were transverse. This would be inconsistent with a typical hanging where the ligature mark rises upon the neck and in the opinion of the forensics team this represents ligature strangulation. Ligature strangulation of this kind is also consistent with strangulation being used as a method of torture. There were images of deceased persons where ligature marks were present on the wrists and ankles.
- The majority of the tramline bruises were on the torso, although some were on the limbs. These were highly consistent with repeated impacts with a rod-like object.
.There were other injuries, such as bruises and abrasions that were essentially non-specific as no particular causative implement or mechanism could be inferred.
. There was a high level of emaciation and images of many of the individuals showed evidence of discoloration and ulceration, primarily in the foot and shin region.
As visual materials about the report have already been made public via international media, there is not much need to detail how these tortures have been committed. The more important is what consequences these findings can produce. That’s why the report’s conclusions are very significant:
“The inquiry team is satisfied that upon the material it has reviewed 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. 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.”
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, a member of the legal team, Prof. Crane who indicted Liberian President Taylor, said “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. This is amazing. This is the type of evidence a prosecutor looks for and hopes for. We have pictures, with numbers that marry up with papers with identical numbers – official government documents. We have the person who took those pictures. That’s beyond-reasonable-doubt-type evidence.”
As a matter of fact, there were no doubts on the inhumanity of the Syrian regime and Bashar al-Assad; given the fact the death toll has already exceeded 120,000 with U.N. agencies declaring that they have stopped counting the deaths in Syria. However, the problem is not who is killing who but how these killings will be stopped. The report on the very eve of Geneva II talks should lead the international community to a conclusion that al-Assad can and should not be allowed to be part of plans to shape Syria’s future. This report is a specific and clear message to Russia and Iran and the like who want al-Assad remain in power, that they are protecting one of the most dangerous evils of our age.