Syria Daily: US — Assad Regime Builds Crematorium for Bodies of Detainees

A satellite view of Sednaya prison complex near Damascus, Syria is seen in a still image from a video briefing provided by the U.S. State Department on May 15, 2017.

US: “Attempt to cover up mass murders in the Assad crematorium is reminiscent of the 20th century’s worst offenses against humanity”

The Assad regime has built a crematorium at a prison, near Syria’s capital Damascus, where thousands of prisoners have been killed or died from abuse and poor conditions, according to the US State Department.Stuart Jones, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, said, “Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves,” showing aerial images of the claimed crematorium.“The attempt to cover up mass murders in the Assad crematorium is reminiscent of the 20th century’s worst offenses against humanity,” said Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations.In February, Amnesty International reported from witnesses that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were secretly hanged between 2011 and 2015 in Sednaya Prison. Every week and often twice a week, groups of up to 50 detainees were killed.The information supplemented the pictures of a prison photographer, codenamed Caesar, who defected in August 2013. The photos establish the deaths of at least 6,786 detainees, whose bodies were taken to two military hospitals near prisons in Damascus.The US claim raised the possibilities that the deaths from abuse, if not executions, at Sednaya did not end in late 2015 but are ongoing. However, human rights groups said some of the satellite photographs have existed for years and are not conclusive.“There still needs to be a lot of research done,” said Geoffrey Mock, a Middle East specialist at Amnesty.Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the UN tribunal compiling evidence of possible war crimes, said, “I don’t have any information concerning this crematorium.”

“Regime Atrocities”

Jones also cited ongoing airstrikes, chemical attacks, extrajudicial killings, and starvation by the Assad regime against civilians. He criticized Russia and Iran for maintaining support of Assad despite the attacks and sieges.

The Assistant Secretary said that, because of the regime’s activities, the State Department is not optimistic about a Russia-led proposal for four “de-escalation zones” inside Syria.

In light of the failures of the past ceasefire agreements, we have reason to be skeptical….

These atrocities have been carried out seemingly with the unconditional support from Russia and Iran. The (Assad) regime must stop all attacks on civilian and opposition forces. And Russia must bear responsibility to ensure regime compliance.

But Robert Ford, the US Ambassador to Syria from 2011 to 2014, is sceptical that the US Government will act on the further information about the deaths of detainees.