Syrian army burned corpses to hide victims' identities: report
A rights group accused Syrian government forces Monday of burning bodies inside pits in an effort to make the corpses unidentifiable - the latest in a slew of accusations of crimes by Damascus.
"This may reflect a broader practice of the Syrian government to destroy evidence of their crimes and deny the families of their victims their right to know the fates of their loved ones or receive their remains," the Washington-based Syrian Center for Justice and Accountability said in a report.
Since the start of Syria's civil in 2011 that began with the regime's brutal repression of mostly peaceful protesters, Syrian authorities have been accused of torturing detainees to death, rape, sexual assaults and extrajudicial executions.
The NGO analysed videos dating back to 2012 and 2013 that showed bodies burnt and transferred into mass graves in the southern province of Daraa, and crosschecked them with satellite imagery monitoring the trucks transporting the bodies.
Four videos show armed men transporting at least 15 bodies. They documented their identities, dumped them in a pit, then poured gasoline and set them on fire.
In one of the video clips, an officer is seen photographing the faces of the dead before another one poured gasoline on the face and hands, before kicking a body into a pit and setting it on fire.
"This process is repeated for every single body in the exact same order, indicating the systematic nature of the practice and suggesting that this may not be the only time this group of officials has carried out such an operation," the NGO said.
The NGO believes that the 15 bodies belong to civilians and army defectors shot dead by regime forces during a house raid in Daraa in December 2012.
The Centre obtained the video clips from an activist who said that he received them from an opposition group who ambushed and killed the soldiers who burned the bodies.
Reports published in The Guardian and New Lines Magazine emerged in April, revealing that regime forces allegedly killed dozens of people in the Damascus suburb of Al-Tadamon in 2013.
The Guardian report included footage of a Syrian soldier appearing to order blindfolded civilians with their hands tied to run.
As soon as they bolted, soldiers appeared to riddle their bodies with bullets and they fell into a pit. Forty-one men were killed and their bodies later set on fire.