Syrian defectors accuse Assad relatives of ordering crimes against humanity

Jonathan Miller writes: New evidence has emerged that members of Bashar al-Assad’s family and inner circle are directly ordering the commission of crimes against humanity in Syria. Experts in international law consider it “preposterous and completely implausible” that the president himself would be unaware of the systematic and widespread killing and torture.

Defectors from Syrian intelligence and security agencies, used by the regime to crush the revolt, claim that Assad’s cousin issued shoot-to-kill orders against civilian protesters in Dera’a, the cradle of the insurrection. Kill quotas were reportedly issued to snipers tasked with assassinating pro-democracy activists.

They allege that Assad’s brother Maher, a senior army commander, was among senior figures operating out of a secret command centre in Dera’a when orders were issued to contain a protest march by all means necessary. More than 100 civilians were shot dead. In addition, Maher is accused of ordering the indiscriminate mass punishment of the entire male population of a troublesome town, al-Moudamya, last year.

The defectors’ testimony, to be broadcast by Channel 4 Dispatches on Monday night, has added resonance after a weekend when arguably the ugliest atrocity of the 15-month confrontation was perpetrated at Houla. Though the regime blamed rebels, western powers are adamant that regime tanks were responsible.

In the documentary, The Real Mr & Mrs Assad, there is footage not seen before in the UK of the president saying: “Every mistake [that] happens in this government, you are responsible, not somebody else. Not the minister. Not the prime minister. At the end you should be responsible.” In more recent months, Assad has repeatedly denied any role in the killings.

“No one is authorised to give orders to the security forces except for him,” said the exiled former Syrian vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam, who fell out with Assad in 2005, having served under him and his father. Speaking in Paris, where he lives, Khaddam said: “Will anyone believe that 300,000 soldiers can come out of their barracks to slaughter citizens due to an initiative by their officers? These orders are issued by the president of the state.” [Continue reading…]

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