Human rights

Roula Khalaf

Happiness is a threat in the Islamic Republic, especially to conspiracy-minded hardliners. Read more

The aftermath of a barrel bombing by Bashar al-Assad’s government in Aleppo on March 18 (Getty)

Earlier this week the famous-for-being-famous celebrity Kim Kardashian regurgitated Syrian regime disinformation about a rebel massacre of Armenians in the town of Kasab in the country’s northeast on her Twitter feed after it was captured by rebels.

The Tweet – Please let’s not let history repeat itself!!!!!! Let’s get this trending!!!! #SaveKessab #ArmenianGenocide – went viral, further damaging the reputation of Syria’s opposition, a ragtag rebellion struggling to make inroads against Bashar al-Assad, a dictator who continues to massacre hundreds of people daily in bombing raids and inside his dark dungeons. Unlike in Kasab, these murders have been meticulously documented by independent human rights groups and the UN. Read more

David Gardner

Anyone who thought references to the Assads’ “killing machine” in Syria’s civil war was hyperbolic metaphor should read a horrendously literal report that has just surfaced, detailing the “industrial scale” killing of about 11,000 detainees in the regime’s dungeons. It provides harrowing confirmation of what organisations from the UN to Human Rights Watch had partially documented: the systematic liquidation, usually by or after torture, of those who question or combat the Assad tyranny.

The report is based largely on evidence assembled and smuggled out on a memory stick by a Syrian military policeman, codenamed Caesar to protect him and his family from reprisals, whose job it was to photograph the dead bodies, often up to 50 a day. The evidence has been examined by lead prosecutors for the war crimes tribunals of Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia and top international forensics experts, commissioned by a London law firm on behalf of Qatar, which has been a leading supporter of Syria’s rebels. They found it to be credible evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes that would stand up in a court of law. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Should political leaders who have promoted or tolerated mass killings be brought to justice? Many in the west would instinctively answer Yes. The idea that leaders can kill their way to power – and not face punishment – seems morally wrong and politically dangerous. In recent years, an apparatus of international justice has been set up to ensure that mass murder can no longer go unpunished – with the International Criminal Court at its apex.

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Geoff Dyer

Much to Moscow’s anger, the Senate passed the Magnitsky bill on Thursday, which places visa bans and assets freezes on a group of Russian officials accused of contributing to the death of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

The law is part of a broader piece of legislation that normalises trade relations with Russia following its entry to the World Trade Organisation this summer. The Magnitsky bill has attracted huge attention because of the gruesome back-story that propelled it and because of the friction it has caused between Moscow and Washington. But there are two further important things to note about the bill. Read more

Here are our picks for today: 

Chen Guangcheng in a wheelchair pushed by a nurse at the Chaoyang hospital in Beijing (Getty)

The blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng had been under home arrest for 19 months until last week, when he escaped, took shelter at the US embassy, and appealed in a video for Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, to intervene on his behalf.

Mr Chen left the US embassy on Wednesday for a Beijing hospital as part of a deal brokered by the US. But within hours confusion was surrounding that deal and Mr Chen was telling news agencies he wanted to leave China.

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