Criminal investigators say they have built a case documenting the widespread torture and murder of Syrian detainees by the Assad regime, relying on official photos and meticulous documents.
More than 700,000 pages from Syrian intelligence and security archives have been smuggled out by the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), an independent group of legal experts, through a secret network.
“The documentation is, in the main, generated by the security-intelligence, military and political structures of the regime,” William Wiley, who has worked for U.N. war crimes tribunals on former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, told Reuters.
A key document from 2011 orders the arrest of protesters or people in contact with foreign media, he said in a new documentary “Syria’s Disappeared: The Case Against Assad” that tracks Wiley and his group’s work in Syria.
In another, an official asks what to do with a “hospital refrigerator full of unidentified corpses that have decomposed.”
“The queen and king of evidence in any criminal investigation is a document. It isn’t cross-examined because it is factual, it is truth,” Wiley said in the documentary.
The film, which had its premiere at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva this week, includes interviews with former detainees and grieving mothers.
“We are trying to lay the foundation for prosecution along the lines of Nuremberg,” Wiley said in the documentary.
Stephen Rapp, former U.S. ambassador for war crimes issues, said of Syrian authorities: “They were keeping meticulous records.” “This is the legal equivalent of a ‘slam dunk’,” he said in the film.
All files have been moved to a secret location in Europe with the aim of sharing them with national judicial authorities or a future international court.
“The real potential (for prosecution) is with national war crimes units domestically,” Wiley told the film’s audience.
The top UN human rights official on Tuesday called for tens of thousands of detainees to be released from Assad’s prisons and for torturers and executioners to be brought to justice as part of a lasting peace.
“Today in a sense the entire country has become a torture-chamber; a place of savage horror and absolute injustice,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. He said it is the worst man-made disaster since World War II. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)