[JURIST] A team of lawyers, doctors and professors specializing in the prosecution of war crimes and forensic evidence issued [press release] a report [text, PDF] Monday including numerous photographs alleged to be “clear evidence'”of torture and systematic killings amounting to war crimes in Syria. The report is derived from almost 27,000 photographs which were obtained by a former military police officer in Syria who has since defected. The defector’s role was to photograph the bodies of deceased individuals brought from detention facilities to a military hospital, which could reach up to 50 bodies a day. The report documents starvation, brutal beatings, strangulation, and other forms of systematic killings, and the majority of the victims are men aged between 20-40. The report stands by the defector’s credibility, who was interviewed over three sessions in the previous 10 days. Monday’s report arrived just 48 hours before the Geneva II Conference on Syria [BBC news report] is scheduled to commence in Switzerland on January 22nd, with intense political posturing surrounding the UN backed conference.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has persisted for almost three years, and there is mounting international pressure to find an end to the conflict. The main opposition group within Syria, the Syrian National Coalition [official website], recently agreed to attend the Geneva II conference after an invitation to Iran was rescinded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [UN backgrounder] yesterday. Following Iran’s original invitation to Geneva II, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition announced [JURIST report] it would refuse to attend the peace talks if Iran was in attendance. Iran is the primary international supporter of Syrian President Bashar, al-Assad [official website] and the current regime. UN pressure on Syria has mounted in the last month as evidence revealed signs of war crimes in the country. Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned [JURIST report] Syrian opposition groups that eyewitness reports of mass executions are violations of human rights and may amount to war crimes.