A Syrian defector who worked for the regime as a forensic photographer leaked over 55,000 photos detailing the deaths of at least 11,000 people, almost all young men, believed to have been political prisoners who were in custody of the Bashar al-Assad regime. The photos were validated by a trio of globally recognized human rights lawyers with experience at the International Criminal Court. One of the lawyers, Professor David Crane, did an interview (MP3) with CBC Radio's As It Happens in which he compared the photos of the bodies to the pictures that emerged from the Nazi's death camps; saying that they were emaciated to the point of death and showed evidence of brutal torture. The photos came to light on the eve of a fresh round of peace-talks between the Assad regime and the various rebel factions in Syria.
"The procedure was that when detainees were killed at their places of detention their bodies would be taken to a military hospital to which he would be sent with a doctor and a member of the judiciary, Caesar's function being to photograph the corpses … There could be as many as 50 bodies a day to photograph which require 15 to 30 minutes of work per corpse," the report says.
"The reason for photographing executed persons was twofold. First to permit a death certificate to be produced without families requiring to see the body, thereby avoiding the authorities having to give a truthful account of their deaths; second to confirm that orders to execute individuals had been carried out."
Families were told that the cause of death was either a "heart attack" or "breathing problems", it added. "The procedure for documentation was that when a detainee was killed each body was given a reference number which related to that branch of the security service responsible for his detention and death.
"When the corpse was taken to the military hospital it was given a further number so as to document, falsely, that death had occurred in the hospital. Once the bodies were photographed, they were taken for burial in a rural area."
Three experienced forensic science experts examined and authenticated samples of 55,000 digital images, comprising about 11,000 victims. "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," the report says.
Syrian regime document trove shows evidence of 'industrial scale' killing of detainees [Ian Black/The Guardian]