Demolition of Evidence
Recent Satellite Images Expose Land Alterations at Qatifa's Mass Grave in Syria
Recent satellite imagery has revealed dredging and leveling operations at the mass grave site near the city of Qatifa in the Rif Dimashq province of Syria. This site is located approximately 45 kilometers north of the capital, Damascus, near the command of the Third Division of the Syrian Army.
The satellite imagery, dating back to early 2023, shows extensive excavation and leveling of the land, with soil overturning at the site, which occurred at the end of the summer in 2022 and completed in January 2023.
In 2019, the Syrian regime erected a concrete wall around the gravesite, believed to be the final resting place for the bodies of several thousand political detainees who were executed or died under torture in detention centers.
The recent satellite imageries of the gravesite raise red flags about the Syrian regime facilitating the destruction and devastation of mass graves, attempting to obliterate any evidence of torture and forced disappearances that occurred over the past decade. The site is no longer visible outside or apparent in satellite imagery.
Previous photos show the changes that occurred in the Qatifa cemetery in the Damascus countryside
between the years 2014-2020
Diab Serrih, the CEO of the Association of Detainees and Missing of Sednaya Prison, stated, “The Syrian regime systematically and deliberately erases and hides its crimes by concealing and destroying evidence that could be used to prove the killings and forced disappearances that occurred after 2011.
The fate of thousands of detainees and forcibly disappeared individuals in Syria remains unknown, with the regime completely denying and refusing to disclose any information that could reveal the fate of the victims and their whereabouts. Additionally, faked death certificates have been issued for some, citing natural causes, without delivering the bodies or disclosing the burial locations.
In March 2022, the The New York Times published an investigation in collaboration with the Association of Detainees and Missing of Sednaya Prison regarding mass grave sites in Syria and their role in proving and documenting war crimes committed by the Syrian regime. The newspaper, based on information and testimonies provided by the ADSMP, successfully identified the locations of two mass graves expected to contain thousands of bodies of Syrians killed in detention centers.
Diab Serrih emphasizes the need for the international community to take concrete actions to address the ongoing crisis faced by families, who lack any information about the fate of their loved ones and accountability in a country experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises since World War II.
To date, no high-ranking Syrian official has been brought to justice for their involvement in past and ongoing crimes against humanity. Trials conducted under the principles of universal jurisdiction have mainly targeted former intelligence officials, Shabiha elements, and National Defense personnel. Meanwhile, numerous perpetrators involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity continue to hold high-ranking positions in Syria, receiving promotions and advancements.