A satellite view of part of the Sednaya prison complex near Damascus, Syria is seen in a still image from a video briefing provided by the US State Department on May 15, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Syrian President Bashar Assad operates a crematorium in order to dispose of the political prisoners his forces have extrajudicially executed, the US State Department charged on Monday, declassifying aerial photographs of the facility.
The building girds Assad’s infamous Sednaya military complex, which includes one of the regime’s largest prisons – known as a final destination for those who enter.
The US believes that roughly 50 prisoners are executed and disposed of each day, and that thousands have been burned since the crematorium was first constructed.
“We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium,” Stuart Jones, acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, told reporters on Monday, “which could dispose of detainees’ remains with little evidence.”
Human rights groups believe between 60,000 and 110,000 civilians have been murdered by the Assad regime without cause or charge, with up to 20,000 executed between 2011 and 2015 at Sednaya alone. Evidence of atrocities from within the facility emerged in 2013 when a defector smuggled out photographs of 6,786 individuals suffering from all manner of torturous death.
US officials said the crematorium was built to hide evidence of Assad’s political executions in Sednaya – “an effort to cover up the extent of mass atrocities” there, Jones said. But they also said Russia and Iran are aware of the facility, and accused them of complicity in Assad’s war crimes.
Support for Assad in Moscow and Tehran is “seemingly unconditional,” Jones said.
For years, UN human rights agencies have accused Assad of killing prisoners on a massive scale.
Mass graves have been thoroughly documented by several governments and NGOs. But Monday’s announcement marks the first time the US has accused Assad of a systematic cover-up for systematic murder.
Aftermath of suspected chemical gas attack in Idlib , Syria on April 4, 2017 (REUTERS)
Crematoria were used by Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany to burn the bodies of his Jewish victims, once the sheer scale of murders rendered the use of mass graves insufficient.
Sednaya Prison is a 45-minute drive from Damascus.