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State Dept. Assails Assad’s “Machinery of Death”

The State Department’s top war crimes official claimed on Thursday that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is guilty of  “crimes against humanity.”

Josh Rogin of The Daily Beast quotes Steven Rapp, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for War Crimes and director of the Office of Global Criminal Justice.

“This is solid evidence of the kind of machinery of cruel death that we haven’t seen frankly since the Nazis,” he said. “If it is as it appears thus far, we’re talking about more than 10,000 individuals being killed in custody over the period from 2011 to 2013, including largely men but also some very, very young men and boys and women… It’s shocking to me, as a prosecutor—I’m used to evidence not being so strong.” …

“Thus far the indication is that it would be impossible to have fabricated this kind of material, and having personally seen hundreds of the images of twisted bodies with real wounds and real human beings of every shape and size, this is not phony evidence,” he said. “These bodies were brought to one location from 24 other facilities, in which they had been tortured to death in a variety of ways: ligature strangulation, burning, bruising, starvation, evisceration, the most horrendous things you can imagine.”

According to Rapp, the United States government has reviewed 28,000 of the photographs smuggled out of Syria by a former military photographer known only as “Caesar,” and concluded that “they not only appear to be genuine, but they also show a level of systematic atrocities that implicate Syrian officials including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in crimes against humanity.”

Caesar’s photographs have previously been reviewed by a panel of war crimes prosecutors, who concluded that there was “clear evidence … of systematic torture and killing of detained persons by the agents of the Syrian government.”

Rapp explained to Rogin that Assad’s culpability derives from his role “as head of the Syrian government and military[, since] he holds command responsibility and is therefore responsible for what the photos show is a policy of torture and murder of civilians. Assad also granted amnesty for crimes committed by his forces; it’s another action that indicates his responsibility.”

Rogin also interviewed Cherif Bassiouni, a war crimes scholar who headed United Nations prosecutions into war crimes committed in Yugoslavia, Bahrain, and Libya. Bassiouni concluded that the evidence seen in the photographs “obligates us to take whatever measures we can to prevent the continuation of it. Obviously the very least would be for us to make it public, to create the necessary public pressure on Assad, and possibly the governments of Russia and Iran, to formally notify the government of Bashar Assad of their responsibility under international criminal law.”

Embedded below is an interview with David Crane, a member of the panel of war crimes prosecutors who analyzed Caesar’s photographs, explaining the methodology that his team employed to arrive at the conclusion that the Assad regime is guilty of war crimes.

[Photo: NemoBusy / YouTube ]