Documents smuggled out of Syria in deadly secret investigation 'enough to prove President Assad committed war crimes'

A three-year-long investigation finally has enough to bring an international criminal case, but Assad will only go to The Hague if his regime falls – and he survives

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Documents leaked out of Syria as part of a secret smuggling mission contain enough evidence to bring a war crimes against President Bashar al-Assad, it has been reported.

According to The Guardian, information brought out of the country by investigators for the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) revealed that the torture and violent suppression of protests leading up to the 2011 civil war was a “centrally guided policy”.

It has built the strongest case yet for bringing a legal case against Assad and 24 senior members of his regime, produced by a team of experts who previously worked on the war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Whether the cases will ever be heard at the International Criminal Court at The Hague is another matter – but recent setbacks for the government in Syria suggests the possibility is there for the regime to fall and Assad to be brought to justice.

Building the case was made possible, according to The Guardian which first reported on the secret mission on Wednesday, by the Assad regime’s near-obsession with documenting all of its orders.

The CIJA accumulated half a million pages of reports sent up and down the government’s chain of command, including commands to carry out mass arrests and detentions for the most minor offences.

The work of the CIJA has been risky and come at a cost; of the 50 Syrian investigators on the ground, one was reportedly killed, another seriously wounded and “several” were detained and tortured by the regime.

The chief investigator, going by the name Adel, told The Guardian he had almost been killed a number of times and that the work meant “long absences and constant fear”.

“But I still believe in the cause of justice,” he said. “I hope one day to see a court that would try the senior leadership and hold it accountable for the crimes committed.”