Syria using crematorium to hide civilian deaths

State Department report says thousands of corpses have been burned

A satellite view of Sednaya prison complex near Damascus, Syria is seen in a still image from a video briefing provided by the U.S. State Department on May 15, 2017. Department of State/DigitalGlobe/Handout via REUTERSFOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNSTHIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

According to American authorities, the Syrian government is using a mass crematorium to burn corpses in an attempt to hide their myriad of human rights violations. According to declassified intelligence presented by Stuart Jones, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, the photographs taken by reconnaissance units prove that Syria built this crematorium “to cover up the extent of mass atrocities taking place in Saydnaya Prison… [with] seemingly unconditional support of Russia.” Jones says that the photos were not shown to Russia before this public presentation.

According to Jones, Syria would kill as many as 50 detainees a day at Saydnaya Prison, corroborating a report released by Amnesty International in February that alleged thousands of Syrian dissenters had been hanged in the prison. That report alleged that many of the at least 5,000 prisoners who arrived at the noose got there without knowing they were sentenced to death. This is only the latest in a series of human rights violations that the Syrian regime has been accused of. In the past, tactics such as torture, sexual violence, barrel bombs, chemical weapons and denial of basic necessities have been allegedly carried out by Syrian forces. According to Jones’ report, at least 65,000 civilians have been abducted by the Syrian regime since 2011.

This report by the State Department comes a week after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a meeting at the White House to discuss U.S.-Russia relations. According to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, Tillerson did urge Lavrov to use Russian influence on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to stop the killing of innocents. Regarding a recent deal struck by Russia and Syria with mediaton from Iran and Turkey that instituted de-escalation zones, Jones expressed skepticism that this deal would hold, citing previous Russia-brokered ceasefires that have fallen apart.

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