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Saturday, 02 August 2014 11:26

Syrian Coalition Demands the Release of 150,000 Detainees in Assad’s Prisons

Imad al-Din Rashid, head of the political bureau of the Syrian National Movement, said that “the Syrian defector who goes only by the name “Caesar” delivered dramatic and disturbing testimony Thursday to a U.S. congressional committee about the Assad regime's atrocities, sharing with lawmakers just a few of the thousands of photos he took showing prisoners who were brutally beaten, starved and murdered.” Caesar spoke before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about what he saw while working for Bashar al-Assad's army during a public hearing session. Rashid pointed out that the session discussed three major points, most notably the need to stop the torture practiced by the Assad regime against 150,000 detainees incarcerated in its secret prisons and who are facing the same bleak fate, emphasizing that Assad is not a partner in the fight against terrorism, while and the third point was highlighted by Frederic Hof, a former State Department senior official, who pointed to the need for supporting the Syrian Coalition and vetted members of the moderate armed opposition." Rashid also pointed out that the Syrian Coalition played an important part in bringing the file of the 11,000 detainees to light “through beforehand coordination especially with the Coalition’s president and the Secretary General, as well as the media and legal institutions of the Syrian Coalition." Caesar’s testimony was delivered in the presence of international war crimes scholar Cherif Bassiouni, international war crimes prosecutor David Crane, and Frederic Hof, a former State Department senior official. After the hearing session Caesar met with the US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power who expressed shock at the sight of the grisly photos, and also with deputies of the U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, and with State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp who provided significant support for the file. Moreover, Rashid said that the opposition delegation renewed the calls for the UN Security Council to shoulder its legal responsibilities towards the protection of detainees in Assad’s jails, noting to the existence of three legal options to bring Assad to account: the establishment of a regional or national court in countries such as Britain, Spain, Norway, or Austria, the establishment of a special tribunal similar to the one established after the assassination of the former Lebanese PM Rafiq al-Hariri, or the establishment of a Special Court similar to those of Sierra Leone and former Yugoslavia. The opposition delegation held a press conference with the U.S. Congress after the hearing session during which it was emphasized that Bashar al-Assad would not be part in the fight against terrorism. The need was also raised for taking tangible measures towards the file of the 11,000 detainees and towards Assad’s use of chemical weapons against the innocent civilians. “I am not a politician, and I don’t like politics. Neither am I a lawyer,” Caesar said. But he added that he couldn’t simply continue doing his job taking pictures of the dead as the number of bodies being brought in by military and intelligence officials multiplied after anti-government protests erupted in 2011. (Source: Syrian Coalition)