September 25, 2012
(sent Sept. 25 to OHCHR: firstname.lastname@example.org, infoDesk@ohchr.org, Press-Info@ohchr.org)
Notes: edit Sept.26 (Manaf to Abdulrazaq), most "A Closer Look" links removed Nov. 6 due to my inability to edit this site in a reliable or timely way (very glitchy interface lately - if I can even finish any kind of update here I'll be surprised - been trying for hours). Please see the re-located A Closer Look on Syria research wiki and search for the named (and now expanded) articles there.
High Commissioner Pillay, President Lasserre, all relevant researchers and decision-makers at the UN Human Rights Council:
Greetings. I am Adam Larson, cofounder of the Citizen's Investigation into War Crimes in Libya (CIWCL), actively investigating events in Syria as well. [i] Please see that this important letter is recieved by the commission of inquiry tasked with studying the August Daraya massacre in Syria.
Despite its size, the following letter is not a report. It makes numerous unusual claims but does not try, within itself, to explain how they were reached. That is explained at the refereces indicated in the endnotes and can be examined there. The CIWCL requests a considered response to the important points raised herein. Please know this is an open letter that will be publicized, along with any response or lack of response. It's hoped it will be aired prominently, but is already up at the CIWCL site at any rate. [ii]
Daraya Investigation: Quicker than Immediate
In late August Syrian government forces re-conquered the city of Daraya, along the way allegedly committing the largest massacre of civilians to date, reportedly in the range of 400-600 or even more. High Commissioner Ms. Navi Pillay spoke on September 10 on "bearing witness: human rights and accountability in Syria." She said in part "I am deeply shocked by the recent reports of the killings in Daraya and I urge an immediate investigation into this incident." [iii]
By the time of this urgent call, there was already a public Internet investigation, in which I am involved, running for two weeks. The fruit of our work so far is available at the research wiki site A Closer Look on Syria. [iv]
"Bearing witness" in the Syrian conflict, as in the Libyan one before it, usually starts with quietly assessing the alleged witnesses. When there are two competing sets, it ends with bearing one set across the river of doubt, while leaving the other stranded on the far shore. The side blaming the government is almost universally selectedfor the crossing, and so is "acountability" directed.
What the opposition-supplied witnesses say happened in Daraya is well known, familiar, and generally accepted. But we also get to hear, louder and clearer than usual, from Daraya locals not affiliated with the opposition, thanks to Robert Fisk and others. These alleged witnesses - whose number and consistency we have yet to witness, mention government loyalists taken hostage in unknown numbers, many of them executed as the army pushed out the insurgents.
Some specify the armed men who had run of Daraya broke into their homes and abducted people, forcing some into "shelters," explaining this was to protect them from an impending government massacre they (the rebels) already knew about. Several of these people spoke upon liberation by the army, and perhaps others like them were found by anti-government activists over the following days - executed in silence in their basement shelters.
There is also serious obfuscation about the Abu Suleiman Al Darani Mosque at which a reported 150 or more bodies were dispalyed. Opposition sources said they simply found these corpses in the basement of the mosque, perhaps after they were killed by Shabiha in that refuge, in a bold and criminal gesture of disdain for Islam.
Rather, they were clearly killed elsewhere (no blood spay across the floor) and brought there wrapped in the blankets they were then displayed on. The claimed mosque basement is really an open courtyard at night; the bodies are seen again in daylight on the same floor, in the same arrangement, now calle a "makeshift morgue." Then they were buried in a mass grave that can be verified, comparing satelite images with photos and videos of the scene, as the lot next to this same mosque. On the southern fringe of Daraya, it was apparently a rebel base since at least April, and a viable fall-back point in August.
The Free Syrian Army apparently gathered and brought the massacre victims south with them, but their spokespeople, especially the Local Coordination Committees, have been less than clear about that. The lack of clarity in its turn suggests a guilty conscience, that perhaps rebel forces had the main hand in their deaths.