Assad tops list of Syria war crimes suspects handed to ICC: former prosecutor

GENEVA Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:23pm EDT

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad heads a cabinet meeting in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on February 12, 2013. REUTERS/SANA/Handout

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad heads a cabinet meeting in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on February 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/SANA/Handout

Related Topics

GENEVA (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tops a list of 20 sample war crimes indictments of government officials and rebels drafted by experts for prosecution someday, a former international war crimes prosecutor said on Tuesday.

The list has been handed to the International Criminal Court (ICC), citing for each incident a specific violation of the Rome statute under which a suspect could be charged, according to David Crane, an ex-chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and now head of the Syria Accountability Project.

A separate team of U.N. investigators has drawn up four confidential lists of war crimes suspects on all sides in Syria, but declined to reveal any names.

Crane said the list compiled by his expert group included members of Syria's military and political elite plus Islamist rebel groups ISIS and al-Nusra Front, although he gave no names beyond Assad.

"We have about 20 indictments of those who bear the greatest responsibility. This is a neutral effort. We're not just going after Assad and his henchman, we are actually documenting all incidents on both sides," Crane told Reuters.

He was speaking after taking part in a panel discussion about torture and other crimes committed in detention centers during Syria's civil war, which began with peaceful anti-Assad demonstrations in March 2011.

Images taken by a Syrian military police photographer codenamed Caesar, published in January, supplied "clear evidence" showing the systematic torture and killing of about 11,000 detainees in conditions that evoked Nazi death camps, former prosecutors including Crane have said.

"We rarely get this type of evidence, most of it is circumstantial," Crane said of the 55,000 photographs of bodies, many with gouged-out eyes and bearing signs of starvation.

"Make no mistake about it, these photographs could not be faked. This takes responsibility for what happened up the ladder of responsibility. It is not an act of a maverick colonel or a mad major, this is government policy," said Sir Desmond de Silva, co-author of an analysis of the "Caesar" photos and another former Sierra Leone chief prosecutor, told the panel.

A six-week offensive by ISIS against rival Islamists in eastern Syria has killed 600 fighters and driven 130,000 people from their homes, a London-based monitoring group said on Tuesday.


Crane, an American professor at Syracuse University College of Law in New York, launched its Syria Accountability Project in 2011 to document war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all sides in Syria's conflict.

It now has 1,400 pages of credible allegations, with the date, place and unit suspected of committing crimes, he said.

"At the beginning, 90 percent of the violations were Assad; it's now 50-50 (percent)," Crane said, referring to crimes committed by rebel forces fighting to topple the Syrian leader.

Last month, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

De Silva said that if the Council remained blocked on the matter, a tribunal on Syria could be set up if more than two countries entered into a treaty. "It may in fact be the only realistic course that can be taken. What we can't have is international justice stalled in its tracks."

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (3)
cirrus7 wrote:
I nominate Vladimir Putin for massive atrocities in Syria. Russia’s veto should be negated if they are on the docket next to bloody Assad.

Putin openly and knowingly shipped huge amounts of weapons after May 2011 knowing full well many innocent people were on the recieving end of the thousands of artillery shells, the bombs dropped by Russian aircraft, and the other hideous bombs used, normally banned.

Even after the international outrage over the bombing of defenseless civilians in Syrian cities, Yak-130 attack jets are soon to be delivered to Assad by Putin, ‘The Butcher of Homs.

Jun 10, 2014 12:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
TruWorldPeace wrote:
I hope Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, John Kerry and Robert Ford will also be on that list. These are the real Syria war criminals, along with their jihadist henchmen doing the actual killing in Syria. In fact,the war criminal Robert Ford should top that list.

Jun 11, 2014 3:54am EDT  --  Report as abuse
knowles2 wrote:
So because you don’t like the way international law is currently set up you are going to circumvent it, this never ends well, after all if two or more countries can hold tribunals into Syria through new treaties, a few countries could get together and hold tribunals on American actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

An let remember the only reason the US was backing the UN resolution was because it contain a clause that protected the Israel from the ICC, US was going to veto it otherwise.

Jun 11, 2014 6:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus