UK & World News
Syria: Brutal Photos 'Are Evidence Of Torture'
Syria is facing fresh war crimes allegations after "clear evidence" of the "systematic torture and killing" of up to 11,000 people was published.
The claims were made by a group of top international lawyers, who were handed 55,000 images of dead prisoners.
The lawyers, who are all former war crimes prosecutors, said the photographs showed emaciated corpses with severe injuries and would support findings of crimes against humanity by Bashar al Assad's regime.
Some detainees appeared to have been beaten, strangled or electrocuted, they claimed.
One of the report's authors, Professor David Crane, has told Sky News that the evidence is strong enough to prosecute Mr Assad himself.
"Within the international criminal law community we have Assad and his generals, whoever they may be, and we can actually hold them liable ... as if they had committed the crimes themselves. This is a solid case," said Professor Crane.
"It characterises the mindset of President Assad and his regime towards his own people.
"This was industrialised killing. This was a killing machine. It was systematic and it ground on for over two years."
The report draws on evidence smuggled out of Syria by an ex-military policeman, known only as Caesar.
He was described as a "truthful and credible witness" by the inquiry team, who said he was "carefully interviewed" and showed "no signs of being sensational".
Caesar told the inquiry team he was asked to take photographs of numbered corpses - a demand that is "wholly consistent with the need of the regime to ensure that orders for the killing of persons in detention facilities had been carried out", according to the report.
"The need to photograph those who were killed is a strong pointer to the fact that the killings were systematic, ordered and directed from above," it added.
Mr Assad, who describes opponents to his regime as "terrorists", previously rejected claims that his troops have killed civilians.
"These organisations do not have a single document to prove that the Syrian government has committed a massacre against civilians anywhere," he said.
"The army does not shell neighbourhoods. The army strikes areas where there are terrorists."
The report, which was commissioned by Qatar, one of the main supporters of the Syrian opposition, was released the day before crucial peace talks in Switzerland.
The so-called Geneva II conference begins on Wednesday in the Swiss lakeside city of Montreux, where representatives from nearly 40 regional and world powers will be seeking an end to the civil war in Syria.
Members of the Syrian government as well as the Western-backed opposition have arrived for the talks.
The peace conference will be the first face-to-face meetings between the two sides since the crisis began in March 2011.
But Iran, an Assad ally, will not be present at the talks after its invitation was withdrawn by the UN less than 24 hours after it was issued.
On the eve of the conference, Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had been right to withdraw the invitation because of Tehran's refusal to declare its support for a transitional government in Syria.
Mr Hague said Iran's involvement in any future peace settlement would be "extremely important", saying it needed to urgently rethink its Syria policy.
He spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the phone after making his comments, telling him that the idea of brokering a transitional government by mutual consent was the way to end the conflict in Syria and that Britain remained open to working with Iran on that basis in future.
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