Following a chilling report by Amnesty International revealing mass executions led by the Syrian government, the country's artists and intellectuals have joined calls to prosecute President Assad for war crimes.
Hundreds of Syrian artists and intellectuals have called upon the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute President Bashar al-Assad for war crimes against humanity. "It is your responsibility to act, to stop the extreme violence of this savage," the artists wrote in an open letter to UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres.
Author Moustapha Khalifé, publisher Faruk Mardam-Bey and leading academic Bassma Kodmani are among the signatories of the letter.
The authors of the letter refer to Amnesty International's report of mass hangings in the Saydnaya Prison near Damascus. According to the human rights organization, up to 13,000 people were hanged to death between 2011 and 2015 under the directives of the Syrian government. Over four years, groups of up to 50 people were taken out of their prison cells to be executed every week.
According to the report released in early February, torture, targeted starvation and arbitrary executions belonged to the inmates' daily routine. Most of them were civilian opponents of the Assad government. Amnesty International also fears that the mass executions are still ongoing.
Meanwhile, a new body is being set up at the United Nations in Geneva to prepare for the prosecution of war crimes committed in Syria, UN officials said on February 16.
The Syrian president dismissed the Amnesty report. "It's not true, definitely not true," he said. "We're living in a fake news era," he added. "Everybody knows this."
eg/ct (AFP, Reuters)