TIMELINE – 11th FEBRUARY 2015 14.03 GMT:
FOR MORE SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS CLICK: HERE
In an interview with BBC TV News, President Bashar Assad, completely contradicting all available evidence, has said that his army “does not use barrel-bombs”.
Sickeningly, despite some tough questioning from the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen, he also tried to turn the accusation into a joke.
“We don’t have barrels. Again, it’s like talking about cooking pots. So, we don’t have cooking pots.
We only have, like any regular army, we have bombs, we have missiles, we have bullets, and etc”.
He also dismissed a reports by Human Rights Watch about the regime’s repeated use of barrel-bombs as “a childish story”.
This Syrian helicopter aircrew is using one of the first crude #NotBarrelBombs, back in 2012 and thousands have been dropped since, here:
On a similar line of questioning on the use of chlorine gas, when asked to confirm his army was not using it, he said, “No, definitely not”.
Assad also claims that, while there is no direct co-ordination, his military get information about attacks on the Islamic State through “a third party”, presumed to be Iraq.
Bowen: “And is that a continuing dialogue that you have through third parties?”
President Assad: “There’s no dialogue. There’s, let’s say, information. But not dialogue”.
Bowen: “They tell you things?” President Assad: “Something like this”. Bowen: “Do you tell them things?” President Assad: “No”.
Despite thorough and persistent questioning in the interview, Assad is tricky, manipulative and evasive. As one Twitter user asked, “Is there a more coldly mendacious ruler in the world than Bashar?”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has documented 1009 air raids carried out by Assad’s helicopters and jets since the beginning of February in 12 out of Syria’s 14 provinces.
Not only has Assad upped the number of attacks in recent months, but cynically taken advantage of the world’s attention on the historic battle by the Kurds to defend Kobane.
According to SOHR the helicopters have dropped 537 barrel-bombs in February, killing 270 civilians including 48 women and 49 children. Another 1200 have been injured, some of them critically.
Or, if you can stomach it (“We are defending civilians and making dialogue”), the full transcript is on the Syrian state media site, SANA, HERE:
CLICK FOR MORE SYRIA NEWS
For further current news, views and information on Syria and Iraq click HERE:
Two days before the opening of the Geneva 2 “peace conference”, which in theory is supposed to agree a transitional government for Syria without President Assad, a devastating report has been published giving evidence of Assad’s war crimes with the systematic killing of 11,000 detainees by the his regime.
The report, based on evidence provided by a former Syrian policeman, has been prepared by three well-known international lawyers, all of whom have acted as prosecutors at previous international criminal tribunals, and contains 55,000 images of dead victims, many of whom have clearly been subjected to torture.
The defector was originally a “scene of crime” investigator who has worked for the Syrian Military Police for 13 years but in 2011 when the conflict started he was redirected to photograph and document the bodies of those brought from prisons and detention centres to a military hospital.
The images the policeman, codenamed “Caesar”, and his colleagues took showed evidence of starvation, brutal beatings, strangulation, and other forms of torture and killing.
Four or five pictures were taken of each body, 55,000 images therefore pertaining to around 11,000 dead detainees.
The were 2 reasons for the photographing. Firstly, to allow the production of a death certificate without family members seeing the body and protecting the authorities from having to explain the death, and secondly to provide “evidence” that an execution order had been carried out.
The three lawyers in the enquiry team were Sir Desmond de Silva QC and Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC from the UK and Professor David M. Crane from the USA.
Both De Silva and Crane had previously been Chief Prosecutor in the Special Court on Sierra Leone convened to prosecute the former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, on charges of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” (he was sentenced in May 2012 to 50 years imprisonment).
Professor Nice was the lead prosecutor in the trial of the former Yugoslavian and Serbian president Slobodan Milošević, who was also indicted on “crimes against humanity” at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, but who died from heart problems before the end of his 5 year trial.
These 3 reputable and credible investigators spent several days in January 2014 questioning “Caesar” at a location in the Middle East (probably Qatar, whose Government paid for a UK firm of solicitors to co-ordinate the investigation) and found him truthful and not prone to exaggeration.
“Caesar” admitted he had not witnessed a single torture or execution and was only involved afterwards, but sickened by what he saw he copied the images onto a flash memory drive and transmitted the pictures and documents to a family member abroad.
The enquiry team were also backed up by forensic experts Professor Sue Black and Dr. Stuart Hamilton, plus a forensic imaging expert, Stephen Cole.
They examined the images without prior knowledge of their source and deemed the photographs as authentic, unretouched and evidence of beating, binding, restraint or other physical assault but “excluding injuries that could reasonably have occurred as the result of legal combat engagement”.
26,948 images were directly provided by “Caesar” and more than 20,000 via the Opposition Syrian National Movement from “Caesar” and other sources.
“Caesar” also described how he and a doctor were sent to a military hospital to record the deaths of prisoners killed in detention, sometimes recording as many as 50 bodies a day, requiring 15 – 30 minutes of work on each corpse.
After the issue of a death certificate the families were informed that their family member had died “in hospital” from either a “heart attack” or “breathing problems”.
Each body was given two numbers, one referring to the branch of the intelligence service responsible for the detention and death of the detainee, and a second number falsifying that the detainee had died in hospital. The corpses were then taken away for burial in a rural location.
Although in the short time available the enquiry team was not able to examine every single image, they concluded that there is more than sufficient evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Assad regime.
De Silva told the London Guardian, where the report was first published (along with CNN), that the evidence “documented industrial-scale killing”. He added: “This is a smoking gun of a kind we didn’t have before. It makes a very strong case indeed.”
Commenting on the report, a spokesman for the US Government said, “As we have for over two years, and again today, we call on the Syrian government to grant immediate and unfettered access to all their detention facilities by international documentation bodies, including the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria”.
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) spokeswomen said, “These photos – if authentic [Having not checked them ourselves] – suggest that we may have only scratched the surface of the horrific extent of torture in Syria’s notorious dungeons. There is only one way to get to the bottom of this and that is for the negotiating parties at Geneva II to grant unhindered access to Syria’s detention facilities to independent monitors.”
At the time of writing, the day after the release of the report, SANA, the Syrian official state media, makes no mention of the accusations at all.
President Bashar Assad, portrays himself as a loving family man, an urbane, gentle, sophisticated leader “loved” by his people.
He is clearly nothing of the kind. The Assad war crimes evidence detailed above can only happen systematically and repeatedly over a long period if authorised from above.
Not withstanding that this report has been commissioned by Qatar (a sworn enemy of Assad and sponsors of the armed Opposition against him) and that it publication has been timed to cause maximum impact at the Geneva conference – the responsibility for everything described above is Assad’s.
He had allowed this to happen and directly or indirectly authorised it.
Assad is in fact a monster, a blood-thirsty killer, just like his father Hafez, who will do anything to preserve his family “dynasty” and the elitist position of the minority Alawite community to which he belongs.
Bashar Assad should be arrested and tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Court in the Hague, in the Netherlands, at the earliest possible opportunity.
You can read the full Guardian report, HERE:
And the enquiry’s report, HERE:
The BBC has a video report, HERE:
CNN has 3 video reports, with 3 of the investigators, (CAUTION – EXTREMELY HARROWING IMAGES) HERE:
CLICK FOR MORE SYRIA NEWS
ASSAD JET COMMITS WAR CRIME AT AZAZ – 40 CIVILIANS KILLED, UP TO 150 INJURED – I MAN “TODAY I BURIED 12 MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY”:
TIMELINE – 16th AUGUST 2012 12.15 GMT:
Around 3.00 pm local time yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, one of Assad’s MIG fighter jets screamed low over the FSA controlled town of Azaz in northern Syria near the Turkish border and delivered its deadly cargo of bombs.
Its targets were the former Ba’ath Party headquarters, now the HQ of the local FSA and a detention block nearby currently housing regime prisoners, Assad officials and members of the Shabiha.
Neither building was damaged. Azaz is a key town in the supply of food, medical supplies and probably ammunition and weapons to the FSA units fighting in Aleppo 30 miles (45 kilometres) away.
Instead the bombs fell on a residential block completely flattening dozens of houses over a 4,900 square metre area, instantly killing 40 civilians and injuring between 100 and 150 others.
Houses on surrounding streets were also significantly damaged with collapsed walls and ceilings and shattered windows.
Families were resting at home together during the fasting hours of Ramadan.
The casualties have been moved as quickly as possible to Turkey for treatment but hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx. A further 15 are reported to have died since they were sent to hospital.
One resident. “Ahmed”, described how he buried 12 members of his family as a result of this airstrike.
“I was about 100 meters away from the house when I saw the airplane and heard the sound of the bombing and destruction.
My three brothers lived here.
I buried 12 of my family members today, including my father, my mother, and my sister – my brother’s wife as well. Walid, my brother, was cut into pieces. We didn’t recognize him at first. We buried my brothers’ children also. The youngest was 40 days old”.
You can read and see more from Human Rights Watch (HRW), who were there on the ground documenting the attack shortly after it happened, HERE:
Al Jazeera also has a pretty grim video report (Caution: distressing pictures), HERE:
International humanitarian laws on war, prohibit direct acttacks on civilian targets. Clearly the Assad regime has shown complete disregard for this, over and over.
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION REPORTS ON MASSACRE OF 108 AT HOULA – “BLAME LIES AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL”:
Yesterday also the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva published a report on the massacre at Houla on the 25th May 2012 clearly attributing blame to Government forces and Assad’s armed militia, the Shabiha. The investigating commission interviewed more than 600 witnesses. 108 people were murdered, including 49 children and 34 women.
In part the report reads:
“The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Government forces and the Shabbiha had committed the crimes against humanity of murder and of torture, war crimes and gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, indiscriminate attack, pillaging and destruction of property.
The commission found that Government forces and Shabbiha members were responsible for the killings in Al-Houla.
The commission confirms its previous finding that violations were committed pursuant to State policy. Large-scale operations conducted in different governorates, their similar modus operandi, their complexity and integrated military-security apparatus indicate the involvement at the highest levels of the armed and security forces and the Government”.
The full report can be found here by clicking on “Advanced Edited Version” and the document will come up in Word.
The BBC has an interview with Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Chairman of the UN inquiry, HERE:
TIME TO BRING PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD OF SYRIA TO THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT:
EDITOR: Following these 2 events yesterday I decided to take personal action and launched another petition on AVAAZ, this time a call to bring President Bashar al-Assad to justice at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
No doubt Russia and China will block any attempt by the Security Council to refer Assad to the ICC, but if we get 1 million signatures even they will take notice!
You can access the petition HERE:
Please retweet on Twitter and spread by email and on Facebook, Pinterest and other social media. More than 300 signatures have come in over the first 2 days from countries all over the world, including Russia.
The short address to retweet the petition is: http://bit.ly/AssadToICC