A team of internationally renowned war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts has found “direct evidence” of “systematic torture and killing” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the lawyers on the team say in a new report.
Their report, based on thousands of photographs of bodies of alleged detainees killed in Syrian government custody, would stand up in an international criminal tribunal, the group says.
CNN’s “Amanpour” was given the report in a joint exclusive with The Guardian newspaper.
“This is a smoking gun,” said David Crane, one of the report’s authors. “Any prosecutor would like this kind of evidence — the photos and the process. This is direct evidence of the regime’s killing machine.”
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The United States is looking at new classified intelligence indicating the Syrian government may not fully declare its chemical weapons stockpile, CNN has learned. That would mean Syria will still have a secret cache of chemical weapons after the agreed-upon destruction of its declared weapons is carried out.
The intelligence is not definitive, but “there are various threads of information that would shake our confidence,” one U.S. official said. “They have done things recently that suggest Syria is not ready to get rid of all their chemical weapons.”
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By Becky Bratu, Staff Writer, NBC News
A team of international experts began the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons on Sunday, according to the United Nations.
The group consists of international inspectors from the Netherlands-based watchdog Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons along with a U.N. team.
Under their supervision, “Syrian personnel used cutting torches and angle grinders to destroy or disable a range of items,” said Eri Kaneko, associate spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon‘s office.
“This included missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment. The process will continue in the coming days,” she added.
Their mission follows a deadly chemical attack on Aug. 21 aimed at Damascus suburbs under the control of rebel fighters.
While the United States, its allies and the opposition blame the regime of the embattled President Bashar Assad for the attack that killed hundreds, the Syrian government has blamed the rebels.
The attack also prompted the Obama administration to threaten the Syrian regime with military strikes, which set off weeks of diplomatic negotiations that ended with a U.N. resolution on Sept. 27.
More than 100,000 have died since the conflict in Syria began in 2011 with demonstrations that have since degenerated into a bloody civil war.