Friday, July 25, 2014

10,000 Bodies: Inside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Crackdown

Photographs of Corpses Offer Evidence of Industrial-Scale Campaign Against Political Opponents by Assad Regime, U.S. Investigators Say

By Adam Entous And Dion Nissenbaum WSJ
Updated July 25, 2014 7:11 p.m. ET

A card identifies a corpse at Hospital 601 in Damascus, Syria. U.S. investigators believe at least 10,000 people, most of them anti-Assad activists, were tortured and killed between 2011 and 2013 as part of a crackdown on opponents of the regime.

At Hospital 601, not far from the presidential palace in Damascus, Syrian guards ran out of space to store the dead and had to use an adjoining warehouse where military vehicles were repaired.

A forensic photographer working for Syria's military police walked the rows and took pictures of the emaciated and disfigured corpses, most believed to be anti-Assad activists. Numbers written on the bodies and on white cards, the photographer said, told regime bureaucrats the identities of the deceased, when they died and which branch of the Syrian security services had held them. (Graphic image follows.)

U.S. investigators who have reviewed many of the photos say they believe at least 10,000 corpses were cataloged this way between 2011 and mid-2013. Investigators believe they weren't victims of regular warfare but of torture, and that the bodies were brought to the hospital from the Assad regime's sprawling network of prisons. They were told some appeared to have died on site.

Last year, the Syrian military-police photographer defected to the West. Investigators later gave him the code name Caesar to disguise his identity. He turned over to U.S. law-enforcement agencies earlier this year a vast trove of postmortem photographs from Hospital 601 that he and other military photographers took over the two-year period, which he helped smuggle out of the country on digital thumb drives.

(More here.)

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