The chairman of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown N.Y. was part of a team of war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts that concluded thousands of photographs smuggled out of Syria by a former military photographer are evidence of torture and execution by the Syrian government.
David Crane, the first chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone who indicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity, was part of six member team that included Sir Desmond de Silva, former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Sir Geoffrey Nice, former Lead Prosecutor of ex-President Milosevic of Yugoslavia, as well as a forensic pathologist, forensic anthropologist, and a forensic imaging expert that examined thousands of photographs of dead prisoners from Syria's nearly three year civil war.
"The evidence show a systematic industrialized killing machine that is direct and credible evidence provable in a court or tribunal," Crane told the Times Observer. "The standard is beyond a reasonable doubt and this evidence raises to that level. This type of evidence has not been seen since Nuremberg."
Crane has visited Warren County numerous as times as the chair of the Jackson Center, most recently in October 2012 for the debut of 'Liberty Under Law,' the first feature documentary on the life of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson.
The forensic team was charged with determining the credibility of a Syrian defector, named "Caesar" in the report, and nearly 55,000 photographs of 11,000 dead detainees the former military photographer had smuggled out of Syria on a flash drive. Before the civil war in Syria began, "Caesar" photographed dead or injured persons for the Syrian military.
"However after the uprising against the Assad regime it became routine to take photographs of people in detention who had been tortured and killed during detention," the report states.
The reason for photographing the dead detainees served two purposes - to provide a death certificate without allowing families of the detainees to see the body "thereby avoiding the authorities having to give a truthful account of their deaths" and to confirm that orders to execute individuals had been carried out.
The Syrian governments own thorough documentation of human rights violations echoes the train cars and rooms full of paperwork used by the prosecutors at Nuremberg against Nazi war criminals.
In fact, Desmond de Silva himself compared the images examined to those of Holocaust survivors in a CNN interview, saying they are "reminiscent of the pictures of those [who] were found still alive in the Nazi death camps after World War II."
Each detainee was given a reference number that coincided with a branch of the Syrian security service responsible for their detention and death. Corpses were transferred to a military hospital where another number was given to "document, falsely, that death had occurred in the hospital," the report states.
Causes of death were listed as either "heart attack" or "breathing problems," according to the report.
"In the view of the inquiry team the need to photograph those who were killed is a strong pointer to the fact that the killings were systematic, ordered, and directed from above," the report says.
Crane said the numbering system and photographic evidence "shows a systematic and intentional targeting of civilians...a crime against humanity" and the evidence "directly and unequivocally" points to authority from the Syrian government.
The report contains graphic photographs of emaciated, tortured and abused detainees.
"The bodies he photographed since the civil war began, showed signs of starvation, brutal beatings, strangulation, and other forms of torture and killing," the report said.
The forensic team concluded "there is clear evidence, capable of being believed by a tribunal of fact in a court of law, of systematic torture and killing of detained persons by the agents of the Syrian government" and "such evidence would support findings of crimes against humanity against the current Syrian regime."
The report "A Report into the credibility of certain evidence with regard to Torture and Execution of Persons Incarcerated by the current Syrian regime" was commissioned by Carter-Ruck, a London-based law firm, which was acting on behalf of Qatar, which supports rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The team was aware of the "competing national and other interests in the Syrian conflict" and approached the evaluation of "Caesar's" evidence with "caution and an alertness to the fact that the inquiry team itself had to guard against being used as a vehicle for others to advance a particular point of view."
"Such evidence could also support findings of war crimes against the current Syrian regime," the report states in it's conclusion.