BEIRUT, Lebanon – A day ahead of a peace conference being held in Switzerland, a report compiled by international war crimes prosecutors Tuesday claimed that the Syrian government was involved in the “systematic killing” of some 11,000 detainees in two and half years from March 2011.
The report prepared by a team of prosecutors and forensic experts says that it had photographs of dead bodies showing “signs of starvation, brutal beatings, strangulation, and other forms of torture and killing”.
The report, first shared with the Guardian newspaper and the CNN, said the source of the photographs is a military police photographer codenamed Caesar and “in that role it fell to him to photograph scenes of crimes”.
In a group of photos of 150 individuals examined in detail by the experts, 62 percent of the bodies showed severely low body weight with a hollow appearance indicating starvation.
The majority of all the victims were men, most likely aged 20-40, it said.
The report says the fact that all the bodies were photographed strongly suggests that “the killings were systematic, ordered, and directed from above”.
The legal team of the report authors include Sir Desmond de Silva, a former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Two members of the legal team include Charles Taylor of Liberia and Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice.
The forensic team included Dr. Stuart Hamilton, Professor Susan Black and Stephen Cole.
The 31-page report was commissioned by a London-based law firm operating on behalf of the government of Qatar, which has financed and armed rebel groups in Syria and repeatedly called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand trial for war crimes.
The report comes as America and other Western nations are all set to sit for a long-awaited Syria peace conference on Wednesday.
The peace conference to be held in Switzerland was on the verge of a collapse before it even began when Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, issued an unexpected invitation to Iran to attend the talks.
The invitation had infuriated Syrian opposition leaders, who threatened to pull out of talks if the invite was not rescinded.
Ban’s spokesman said Iran was no longer welcome at the initial day of talks at Montreux, Switzerland Wednesday.
The UN chief was “deeply disappointed” by Iran’s statements, the spokesman said.
“He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communique,” spokesman Martin Nesirky said, referring to an earlier agreement.
“Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, he has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran’s participation.”
Russia and Iran criticized Ban’s decision to withdraw the invitation.
The talks are expected to draw a roadmap for a political resolution to end the Syria civil war that activists say has killed more than 130,000 people and unleashed a humanitarian crisis.