Warning

Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fail Caesar Part 6: Evidence the Victims were NOT Prisoners of the Government

Fail Caesar Part 6: 
Evidence the Victims were NOT Prisoners of the Government
February 9, 2016 
(very incomplete, in progress)
last edits April 24, 2016

Note Feb. 11: many links, text, etc. forthcoming (f/c) and in fact this incomplete draft won't be finished all in this space. The material below will be split up (at least largely) into re-organized sub-posts, with links and summaries here. All these points deserve space to breathe, to be explained, and to be expanded, and more points yet could well emerge. But the overall subject also deserves a readable summary, which will take shape (it won't be very fast, sorry)
---

Overview: Coded Prisoners or Unidentified Hostages?
From January 2014 to the present, the narrative spun by the defector code-named "Caesar" has enjoyed acceptance by by esteemed professionals, from the Carter-Ruck law firm on hire of the Qatari royal family to Ken Roth's New-York-based Human Rights Watch. "Caesar," his translator/agent Mouaz Moustafa, other alleged defectors and detainees, and alleged family of those killed - all are quite clear the killings were after arrest by by agents of the "Assad regime" and no one else.

However the accounts conveying that story line are nothing but words, of a kind often proven in the past to be complete lies. They aren't proven either way here, and should be taken with skepticism. Even the bereaved family members, as described, could be impostors, or just partisan enough to falsify the story. They could be telling the truth as they know it, but were misled by someone claiming to have seen the whole story ("we were arrested together ... he was so brave ...")

The point is that there are several ways their accounts could be incorrect. But sadly, they've effectively been taken as factual records, albeit with some token displays of skepticism. The alleged family members of identified "Caesar" photo victims almost universally claim the regime never returned their family member's body, having it hidden in a mass grave. But perhaps the truth is they never got the body because they aren't the real family, and therefore probably didn't bother asking for it. Consider also how few of the victims were ever publicly reported as missing (see below...)

The trusted sources are clear that  the thousands of morgue photos "Caesar" smuggled out show nothing but deceased government prisoners (approximately 6,700 of them, it seems), and the numbers on the cards and on their bodies represent them, in a secret code only their captors know.

But this is clearly challenged by many examples. We've already seen (in part 5) clues that the number represent found bodies numbered in order of finding. There was also one victim who looks like a National Defense Forces fighter (aka "Shabih") with Assad tattoos, who was apparently shot by a sniper, but claimed with confidence as detainee of Air Force intelligence. Also covered there was another man who, by his tattoos, was a Christian (see right), most of whom are known to support the government.

After the Carter-Ruck report first made the news, Syria's Justice Ministry rejected the accusations, explaining:
"The report is a mere gathering of photos of unidentified persons proving that a number of them are foreign terrorists from several nationalities who had been killed when attacking the military checkpoints and civil institutions," [...and] "Part of them are civilians and military personnel who were tortured and killed by the armed terrorist groups because of their support to the state." 
"Tortured and killed" means they were also, prior to that, abducted and imprisoned by the same "terrorists." "Terrorists" is of course the Syrian government's term for anti-government armed groups - supported by the United States and its allies - who torture and kill the Syrian people. 

"Caesar" says the number suggests the prisoner's identity is a coded secret, but clearly known to the government that locked them up. The numbers do stand in for names, but unidentified bodies might also be cataloged with numbers in lieu of names. Since 2011 Syria has been in conflict, and bodies are often just found, after clashes - as in the early case of Hamza al-Khatib - or otherwise.

(Copied from part 5:) A point that occurred to me later is the similarity of the forehead tape to a system I've seen used before - in rebel areas. This was the Ghouta chemical massacre(s) of August 21, 2013, with hundreds killed allegedly by Sarin rockets (which is also just after "Caesar" fled Syria with his last gathered photos). Below on the right is a boy victim, #86 (see also here), of a purported 865 numbered, unidentified victims, and an unclear, much smaller number that anyone even claimed to know. (source, but still to be verified - there were at least 4-500 dead, but probably well below the 1,429 claimed by some). Signs say that's because they were people held captive by local terrorist groups, who wound up burying them in mass graves somewhere, after a token few were claimed by alleged family on video.

So here the tape records victim of (regime rocket? rebel prisons/gas chambers?). We know rebels/terrorists/activists on the anti-government side use this system, but it could be something that simply everyone does.

In the Caesar photos, we see the killers do the same, but with a branch number added beside it. Unlike the later victims, these were passed through the system as unidentified, or at least coded in a system very similar to that for mystery bodies; they get the official-style card documentation seen with little Hamza (left). Unlike Hamza (identified and then handed back to family) and the Ghouta mass gave burials, the "Caesar" photo victims had to be buried by the government in cemeteries they ran.

Combining those precedents, this happenstance hybrid system could show a Ghouta-style mystery person - a victim of (regime prison/gas chamber? rebel prison/gas chamber? other/unclear?) - numbered like rebels at least do it, and then passed through the official system as well. In the example here, only a hospital number (2212) is shown on the card, as with Hamza (see part 5). In most other cases, the cards "Caesar" or a teammate write up "confirm" the branch number ... which was written there first by local terrorists, for all we know.

Here I'll attempt a partial summary of further evidence (verbal, visual, logical) that the people seen in these photos did not (probably, generally) die as prisoners of the Syrian government. The truth seems somewhat mixed and not yet certain, and may include some from that category. However to the extent they were imprisoned - which is huge and applies to thousands of victims here, perhaps over 90% of the total - the blame most likely lies with rebels/terrorists and their destructive agenda.

6-A: Few Claimed IDs vs. Major Unreported Abductions
M.K. al-Tout, an unnoted abductee
No one noticed his arrest, but he was
recognized right away in the photos.
This important subject will be explained/explored at the linked post. SO far it's not a solid finding but a founded impression - a vast majority of the implied 6,700 men and boys in the photo catalog seem to NOT have been reported as arrested in the first place. Opposition watchdogs can now identify a small minority of the victims - thousands remain unspoken for. And only a small portion of those given names were ever noted as being arrested by security forces. This is of course, allegedly - how they all started on the path to death and being in these photographs. So why in a huge majority of cases would that arrest go un-noticed by the opposition's activists?

This lack of early reporting suggests it was actually anti-government forces that were abducting (the bulk of) the "Caesar" photo victims. As we all know, these sources report regime crimes - true or not - and ignore rebel ones, or better yet ... blame them on the regime.

related: see 6-F

6-B: "Caesar": "these pictures also include..." 
The Carter-Ruck report states "The inquiry team was informed by “Caesar” that for the last three years his only job together with others in his section, was to photograph and document bodies of detainees who had been killed." Since then, it's implied, all combat deaths, natural deaths, executed by terrorists and left -to-be found unidentified...all were sent somewhere else.

SNHR report p 4/5 - he told them same, except in some cases, presumably a small few... From their own interview with the defector, their report quotes him so:
"most of those victims were killed under torture while others were massacred. These pictures include victims of 6 massacres who were killed in Damascus suburbs (in Douma, Al Doumair, and Rankous regions), and in Daraa governorate, where entire families were killed their houses." 
So ... did these get the same miltary intelligence branch prisoner number it seems everyone got? even "sporadic views" victims have a unit blamed, just varied. Are they in the pictures of 4,000 implied victims he missed or held back? Or in the "other half" of the entire 53,000? In-home massacre victims should be identifiable to the killers, and so it would not be as unidentified bodies that they were brought here, nor as coded prisoner - IF these were among those released with numbers attached, it would be a clear sign the numbers don't represent prisoners, and might in fact be fake.

Families killed in their homes are usually the result of "Shabiha" attacks, according to rebels and their alleged witnesses. But usually it's odd how the killers left the bodies behind for rebels to scoop up by the truckload. They and civilian helpers broadcast the corpses on Youtube as their own slain kin, but then dump them as if unclaimed in mass graves.

Any massacred families featured in the "Caesar" photos would be different in somehow winding up in government hands. Also, they would include none of the females; everyone agrees only one female appears, and she wasn't killed in a massacre, if at all. (unless these are hidden in one of the unseen sectors...)
Also some of the victims' bodies belonged to armed opposition groups who were killed or injured during clashes with government forces," said Caesar.
He meant some of the bodies are those of fighters, killed in the course of battles they lost. But that would leave fighters and their property - human and otherwise - in government hands, and they would likely be handled as described above.

Although the Justice Ministry and "Caesar" agree on the photos including killed fighters, I can't yet verify it. In scanning the 6,700 available images, a lot appear like possible rebel fighters, but these are as often as not starved and abused like the rest. Combat deaths are hard to make out one way or another from these face shots - only a very, very few who appear shot in the head are included. 

Combat death might be processed elsewhere, with the 601 garage only for unidentified bodies. But maybe it includes those with at least a known death story (killed in combat by the army, brought in by and vouched for by the army, but otherwise unknown, with no papers) as well as the fully unexplained type (found dead with no papers and no one vouching for anything).

Maybe there are more combat deaths than it seems - he's not talking about in the missing 4000 he never got, nor the "other half" he's never show, but about what's in "these pictures." of prisoners the SNHR was reporting on. The difference between none, a few, and many dead rebel clearly matters, but the answer can't be known yet.

I bet the pictures also include a number of soldiers "who tried to defect," but he wisely didn't mention that. Some of the clues for that are below (see Crushing the Resistance?)

Could the thousands of numbered "detainees" actually include fighters from both sides, and massacred families, besides prisoners of whoever? That possibility is solidified by SNHR report "On 9 June, 2015 SNHR documentation team recorded the arbitrary arrest of two families from Damascus city, whose childrens' pictures were published among the Caesar images."  (note: if they noted this publicly, I cannot locate it for more details) "Arrest" suggests taken to a facility, and "published images" are all attributed to MI branch prisons, not in-home massacres. These show only men and boys, so children translates to boys. Were the women and girls arrested too? What became of them after their capture? What about the men? Released, also shown, killed otherwise? How big were these two families? Were they perhaps extended families of several households each, linked by a relative hated by one side or the other? (that's a traditional massacre basis, and these detainees could be yet more massacre victims, and even comprise a big chunk of the total seen. ) 

6-C: "Torturing to Kill" Thousands, and Trying to Save a Few?
Detailed explanation at the link - summary here:

In several instances, the "Caesar" photos show medical devices indicating that a professional medical staff encountered that person, and treated their life-threatening problems, but in the end the patient died anyway. There are two main options for the middle part, and it's contested:
* "Caesar" and others on his wavelength claim patients were arrested from hospitals, and/or detainees died under torturous "treatment" at the "trauma department" of hospital 601
* The life-saving measures at hospital 601 just failed, on a person someone else had probably already left for dead along with a bunch of others who were dead.

Five victim photos at least show feeding tubes or central venous catheters inserted (at right, j-8005). This is a specialized, life-saving procedure useful especially for victims of starvation and/or damaged mouths or throats.

Others were given serious and time-consuming help with their breathing ... after someone (presumably someone else of a different character) created problems in that area - problems they probably though were already fatal. But not quite yet ... 

It's only done for people considered to be alive. And usually it's done to keep them alive. Why "torture to kill" thousands of men, but then try to save the lives of these few? These signs of medical intervention argue strongly against the victims being government-held prisoners. Instead, they suggest - or are at least more consistent with - large numbers of recently-killed people being found, a small few of whom were actually not quite dead.

Others that clearly don't appear here might have started in that category, and then pulled through to recovery and a return home. HRW claims to know what they'd say "if the dead could speak," based largely on what the defector from Hospital 601 said. But I bet they never asked the people who still work there ... maybe some of "the dead" could speak, and gave their own explanation how they and the other got this way. We haven't heard any such news, but of course we probably wouldn't. We never heard about up to 1,000 bodies per month found just dumped like this either.
 

6-D: Delay and decay: Left to rot, but where?
We can leave the icky details aside here and just note these main points:
* A decent number, but a very small percentage, of the photos show victims in states of moderate to advanced decay.
* "Caesar" and others claim the only real delay with bodies moving from torture prison to morgue to the grave was at the hospital 601 garage, often waiting 3-4 days before enough bodies were collected to warrant a drive to the cemetery.
* More likely, the  decay we see were before this - and probably not stinking up any torture prison or hospital. Quite likely, the delay and decay happened after the local terrorists dumped their victims but before government-aligned parties recovered them and brought them to hospital 601.
* The relatively few decayed bodies in the published images underlines how a solid majority of the bodies, if they were as I suspect just found, were found very quickly. Perhaps the terrorists dumped their victims somewhere easily found, and maybe even put in a phone tip, hoping to get them in front of "Caesar's" lens as soon as possible. As section 6-C explains, some victims were so freshly killed when found they weren't even dead yet, and their alleged killers seemingly tried to save their lives.

6-E: Signs of Sympathies
Carter-Ruck report - "Caesar's" contact and in-law told them about the qualifications his (LCC?) had in mind in 2011 in seeking traitors to help reveal Syria's hidden crimes to the world. "We had to look for people working with the regime itself who are sympathetic to our cause,” said the contact. His brother-in-law it seems, now called "Caesar," must have been at least adequate. He photographed bodies officially, or was close to that system anyway - and he sided with the uprising, for either pro-freedom or Sunni extremist reasons. I suspect he said one thing to the Brits, and probably another to the Qataris , and another yet to some of his closer contacts.

If Caesar sympathized with the rebellion, and that's what "Assad" was trying to crush by killing all these mostly innocent and primarily Sunni political prisoners, "Caesar" should - as he claims - have the greatest respect for the victims. He says his main goal is to secure justice for the horrors they and their families suffered.

So ... why do "Caesar" and/or his teammates at the garage so often show disrespect for the bodies they had to document?

The group shot at right shows three examples victims with their pants and/or underwear pulled down, which is usually a sign of disrespect to enemy dead, especially among Islamists. (note: the blurred card should say 2217 and "ج" at the top. SAFMCD entry. We can see the 7 at the end (looks like V))

Pants can slide off when moving bodies, especially on emaciated individuals. But this can also be avoided, I think, much better than was done. And corrected easily enough. But they're left down around the ankles in some cases, and the impression of disrespect is clear. Several examples of boys treated the same can be seen in this disturbing gallery from pro-opposition Lebanese Zaman al-Wasl - source for many photos in this post, including at right).

Was "Caesar" the one doing this or ordering this done? Or were the victims brought in this way, and the poor workers forced to leave them so exposed? If the latter, then who was doing it? Regime captors or terrorist killers?

Another example is shown below - 3770 from branch 215 - sword tattoo said to show the victim was Shia and to prove "Assad" is killing off the Shi'ites now too. Other tattoos seem hard to make out. At one point he was shot twice in the right arm, and at another point, imprisoned and starved. At the end of that he died - not from starvation but not from any visible injury either.  At another time a day or two later, here he is photographed by "Caesar" with his pants down to prove "Assad" is disrespecting the Shi'ites now too. 


There's No SAFMCD face shot yet match for this victim yet, but here's the man arrested and/or killed right before him: 215-3669, same story, strangely complete photo, from the 7-7-2013 folder.

SAFMCD's entry for victim 227-402 from folder 1-11-2012 shows a dark blur on the old man's forehead. A Zaman version of the photo (rotated crop here) shows that's the boot of someone on the original Team Caesar, seeming not so much to step on the man as to pull his eye open, for no clear reason. It does not seem respectful.

Someone seems to be poking 215-427 (in the 17-12-2012 folder ) in in the face with a stick, not to mutilate it but to make him look a bit funny. This creates about the same effect, same effect as the above. Both of these cases are in late 2012 folders, which is early in that the vast bulk of the dead are in folders dated later. There don't seem to be many later examples of this kind of funny-face engineering.
With all of these little touches, it feels to me like they're trying to say this is the "Assad regime" abusing its own victims. But perhaps in late 2012 anyway they didn't know the story would include a defector who hates "Assad" and who seems to be in charge of this precise corner of "the regime" (or just marginally involved, or not involved at all - this is actually disputed and needs sorted out somewhere).

Anyway, the question stands: is this abuse a reflection of the wicked regime "Caesar" was trapped in, or of the Sunni extremist views of someone skirting the system to create a little propaganda playground at the 601 garage?

Mutilations even? 

It may be this troubling and ambiguous narrative of disrespect to the dead continues into mutilating the bodies on-site at the Hospital 601 garage. Some eye-gouged photos show moderate or large amounts of blood have spilled from the socket into the soil of the garage. This could be a sign that eyes were being poked out right there, but also could be leftover blood that spilled out when they rolled the body on its side. It happens a lot, and at least makes one wonder why they kept rolling those people on their sides.

... some seem to have spit up fresh blood, but this too is suspect. Again, blood can just passively pour out in handling, but some cases seem beyond that. It could easily be engineered by stepping on their abdomen to force out more - when the fluid seems fresh but the people are clearly dead longer than that, this almost has to be the case - disgusting fakery. 

SNHR video cites a couple of examples to claim some victims were broug4:ht into "Caesar's" Morgue alive and actually murdered there. This seems unlikely, and their reason - fresh blood spilled - does nothing to prove the claim It does suggest mutilation of the dead.

At 4: 50 - 215-593-1-2013 (photo code 3961623) The victim is recently dead enough it could be questioned just how long ago that was... and the shoulder injury seems fresh - but not fatal.

235-103-4-6-2013 (736679) chest injuries, possibly old or new (see right) - it seems they squeezed out a lot of new blood, then wondered how much blood his lungs were full of, and they poked two holes to see it oozing out. Or the holes were already there and it came out ... but then wouldn't it have already drained somewhere else? Also, this might be a set of lungs abnormally full of blood, and a possibly clue to how this man died, perhaps without any visible wounds.

Also, his pants are mostly down. That could be subtle, or a coincidence. He looks like a fit and once able-bodied representative of a group "Caesar" and his collaborators did not like. 
 
Uniforms?
Another issue is how in thousands of photos, no kind of prison uniform appears. The vast majority seem to be naked except sometimes for underwear - which doesn't seem uniform but quite varied, sometime just improvised rag loincloths.

By the accepted story these were mainly not proper prisons but improvised detentions in abnormal (or fictional) holding cells in military intel centers, schools, and other places - at least until they were transferred to what they describe as a prison with tiny cells. But  even when held there for months, by reports of visual signs, they're still in street clothes or nothing - same ones they were arrested in, or are there changes of street clothes provided? Some clothes are reduced to filthy rags, while others seem brand-new, and often mis-matched for the person (old man in a Puma t-shirt, etc.) or inside-out, etc.

And of course we don't see any military uniforms either, other than possibly in shredded form. I'm not an expert in what's used in Syria, but a military-color, olive drab burlap-type fabric tied around the neck is seen in several cases, used for improvised collars on the victims.  I've found a few dozen cases of this or another type of scrap material tied around the neck with strips or burlap or various kinds of rope or twine. (6 compiled at right - for full photos, search the red numbers at the SAFMCD site) In some cases it seems to continue over the head like a hood.

In these cases, the improvised neck-head gear was left in place up to photographing time. How many others had this same accessory at some point isn't clear. It's seen cross different blamed branches (215, 220, 227, and j at least), mainly in early folders (1-11-2012, 1-2013). The purpose not clear - basic restraint is logical, but they appear a bit flimsy for that. These tend to be seen on victims with signs of chemical exposure (more on that later), so it could be related to that.

Now,  everyone in the blame frame here could have access to army uniforms to tear up instead of re-using - a military intelligence center, a military hospital, rebel groups with defectors on board, and/or with captured soldiers stripped of their uniforms. But which one of those really makes the most sense?

Added later: The two at left are in camouflage pattern fatigues, likely once of the SAA, possibly since “defected” and become FSA uniforms. These are listed as detainees 227-1437 (from the March 2013 folder) and middle-aged 293-005 (6 March, 2013). The allegation here is a (brigade?) 293 and branch 227 tortured and killed these detainees in their original uniforms – something I've seen in zero other cases – and both on perhaps the same day.


6-F: Arrested on the Road: many included victims allegedly first entered the torture prison system after being detained at a government checkpoint - the same sources don't seem to hear about any rebel types staling people from un-policed spans between, or at checkpoints they took over, because ... how would they get into a regime prison after that?  first a partial cataloging, with serious analysis maybe later.

Conclusion: Crushing the Resistance?
It's widely accepted the people in these photos had been political prisoners, suspected of rebellious intent, usually without evidence. They'd mainly be Sunnis of course, becuase that's who rebels against the "Alawite regime" and also this is "Assad's secret genocide," as the SAFMCD video calls it. The "geno" should be Syrian Sunnis. We can see members of other groups are included, but we're to presume that's a small portion, and whatever the number, the proven regime genocide is supposed to rule out the natural guess there, and proves these too are being killed in Assad's secret ... well, killing a lot of people.

But it's entirely possible that, despite that engineered impression, minority groups, government loyalists, and  fighters for the secular and inclusive government of Syria - and likely their family members - comprise a major portion of the dead. maybe arrested for "trying to defect," or "showing the slightest disloyalty." We've seen the "Shabih" shot by a sniper, the tattoos, and the tendency of most victims to be fighting-age and fit. ....

(f/c)...

... a similar selection process at work: Douma or Harasta, mid-August, 2012: men linked to security services, but taken from home it seems, are threatened on video by a group using FSA colors (exact group not sure ... ). The six with red xs are clearly matched to 6 bodies shown on video a couple days later with their throats sliced open. That was said to represent a total of 16 local men executed by Assad's forces and dumped where rebels/activists could find them easily.

Later on, captives of this sort were handled in a more careful way, with their inevitable murders not shown right on rebel video like that. How they managed this is unclear, but for all we know the numbers of captives mushroomed, and most of them were  starved, gassed, labeled with forehead tape as regime victims, and sent over to "Caesar" to photograph and "confirm" as regime victims.

(f/c)...

227-2791 (SAFMCD - again, a strangely full photo),  tattoo of- perhaps - the president's late brother, Basel al-Assad. Like the older man beside him but less purple, he was lightly burned somehow on the front side, otherwise with no clear sign of injury except maybe it involved breathing problems. Note his pants are a bit low ... maybe being subtle in his case.  The man next to him apparently has his trousers down further.

..

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome. Stay civil and on or near-topic. If you're at all stumped about how to comment, please see this post.