Syria Executions – Report into the credibility of certain evidence with regard to torture and execution of persons incarcerated by the current Syrian regime

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

First Page - Syria reportIn yesterday’s news roundup, we referred to an article in the Guardian telling of a report containing evidence of ‘industrial scale’ killing by the Syrian regime. Today, the Guardian has provided a link to the report itself which can be found here.

The report was prepared Carter Ruck & Co Solicitors in London with the mandate to  determine  the  credibility  of  a  defector  from  Syria  whose  occupation  prior  to  his  defection  was  in the service of the military police of the Syrian government.

The report tells how in that capacity the defector had  been  in  the  military  police  and  in  that  role  it  fell  to  him  to  photograph  scenes  of  crimes.    With  the onset  of  the  civil  war  the  nature  of  his  occupation  changed and his new duties,  and  those  of  his  colleagues,  now  were  to  photograph  and document the bodies of those brought from their places of detention to a military hospital.

According to the report, the bodies he photographed since the civil war began, showed signs of  starvation,  brutal  beatings,  strangulation,  and  other  forms  of  torture and killing.

The report tells how during the course of his work, the defector who was codenamed “Caesar” smuggled 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 these processes.  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  detainees.

Having carefully interviewed “Caesar” and evaluated his evidence in light of the exhibits available to it, the inquiry team found him, for its part, to be a truthful and credible witness.  He revealed no signs of being  ‘sensational’;  nor  did  he  seem  partisan.    Although  he  was  a  supporter  of  those  who  opposed  the  present  regime,  the  inquiry team was satisfied that he gave an honest account of his experiences.

The legal component of the inquiry team was comprised of The Right Honourable Sir Desmond de Silva QC (Chairman), Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC and Professor David M. Crane.

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