21 Mar New York Times: Mass graves in Syria may carry evidence of war crimes
The New York Times published an article entitled “ Mass graves identified in Syria, which may carry evidence of war crimes,” by journalists Ben Hubbard and Melissa Simmons have identified two sites believed to contain thousands of bodies of Syrians killed in detention centers run by Bashar al-Assad’s government over the past 10 years.
According to the New York Times, during the day, workers use large drilling tools to dig trenches. At night, bodies arrive, sometimes in the hundreds at once, on the backs of military pick-ups, or in trucks with refrigerators used to transport food.
Witnesses confirmed that while government intelligence officers were watching, the dead were thrown to the ground and buried near the capital Damascus, according to men who worked in two mass graves in Syria. Sometimes, workers filled the dirt tightly to prevent dogs from digging bodies.
Us newspaper also said that interviews it had conducted in recent months with four Syrian men who worked in or near secret mass graves to examine satellite images. Together, these clues revealed the locations of the two sites. Each one carries thousands of bodies, according to the men who worked there. It could also contain strong evidence of war crimes committed by Assad’s forces, according to human rights groups, including systematic torture and the killing of detainees.
“If the issue of missing and disappeared persons is not resolved, there will be no peace in Syria,” said Diab Srieh, a founding member of the Sednaya Prison Association.
After the outbreak of the uprising that led to the outbreak of the war in 2011, Assad activated his network of security agencies to eliminate the opposition by imprisoning protesters, activists, and others, the article said.
The U.S. Treasury Department said last year that at least 14,000 of those arrested had been tortured to death, but the actual number was almost certainly much higher. More than 130,000 others have disappeared in government detention centers, many of whom are presumed dead.
The Syrian government has repeatedly denied that it has killed people in detention. However, human rights groups have widely documented the practice. An important body of evidence came from a Syrian police photographer, a symbol named “Caesar,” who fled the country in 2013 with images of more than 6,000 bodies, some of them bearing traces of torture.
The newspaper said it would only be possible to count and identify the bodies in mass graves by exhuming them. But this is unlikely to happen as long as Assad remains in power. Russia, its strongest supporter, continues to support him, and he and his senior officials have not been held accountable for atrocities such as the use of chemical weapons against their citizens.