(Zaman Al Wasl)- A new testimony by an army defector who served in the 601 military hospital where the atrocious photos of mass torture by Syrian security had been taken (between 2012-2013) in a well-known military hospital in Mezzah neighbourhood of Damascus.
The former army soldier has provided Zaman al-Wasl with the name list of the workers in 601 hospital that located few hundred meters from Bashar al-Assad’s Presidential Palace in Damascus.
The list includes names most of participating in the liquidation of detainees and hiding the features of the regime's crimes. He also provided our newspaper with a simplified outline showing the locations of the buildings of the Hospital.
In April 2011, the hospital has been turned into a center for torture and slaughtering similar to the regime's intelligence branches where about 6,000 bodies were transferred out of the hospital in 21 months.
The morgue truck used to come out of the door of dignitaries heading to the presidential palace
According to the source, most of the detainees who were tortured to death in 601 hospital, and not at the security branches. Therefore, Mazza military hospital can be described as an independent and self-governed death production line.
The death squad was established under the supervision of a group of officers and doctors led by the director of the hospital, Brig. Gen. Ghassan Haddad, the security officer, Brig. Gen. Taha al-Asaad and the administration officer Colonel Shadi Zoudah who replaced Colonel Hussein Mlouk.
The soldiers in the hospital were forced almost every week to meet the order of the officer to "load" a total of 70 bodies of the detainees’ corpses appeared to be more frightening than any one could imagine. This has caused a good number of these agents to split out early from the hospital to refrain from participating in such heinous crimes, despite the difficulty of dissent and its high risks.
The source revealed for the first time, the first military victim sentenced to death for trying to break away from the slaughterhouse, saying: "There was a soldier named Ziad Ali from Deir al-Zour, who tried to defect early from the regime army, but the informants were alerted about him. They had arrested him for four days, and on the fifth day, he was brought to the hospital a dead body. We all saw our colleague Ziad in that terrible state. The security services carried kid the soldier to scare fellow servicemen and deter them from defecting. But after about a week, five soldiers were able to escape the terrible fate of our colleague Ziad
In mid 2013, a team of war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts, had analyzed 55 thousand digital photos taken and provided by a Syrian defector codenamed "Caesar," who, along with his family, is now living outside Syria in an undisclosed location, according to CNN.
Most of the military servicemen in the hospital were Sunnis, the largest denomination of Islam, while no ‘Alawites’ soldiers, just the officers were Alawites, Bashar al-Assad's sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, the source said.
The means of disposing pro-revolution soldiers were not limited to handing them over to the intelligence services but also to send them to battlefronts at the demand of the hospital's security officer Taha al-Asaad. They were not qualified and had no combat experience.
The source provided Zaman al-Wasl with a list includes names of 37 officers in 601 hospital, detailing their specialties, ranks and positions. Also those who have had a role in crimes against the detainees.
General Ghassan Haddad, the hospital director, then the former administrative officer Hussein Mlouk", his successor Col. Shadi Zouda, and the security officer Taha al-Asaad who famed for his brutality and sectarian fanaticism.
Al-Asaad did not likely need to leave his office in order to "control security". He has a full army of aides and spies who help him perform his dirty crimes, including: Mohamed Dayoub, Ahmed Khaddour, Mahmoud Zahwa, Rami Hammoud, Ali Barazi and Hussam Mousa.
About the nature of his "work" at the hospital, the dissident source said that he was contributing with other recruits to "loading" the bodies of the detainees from the yard of "Rahba" to the truck that carries them outside the hospital, stressing that the average number of about 70 bodies per week, and if we multiply this number to The number of weeks that the source served before his splitting (84 weeks) will show us that he and other enlisted soldiers carried about 5,900 bodies. A figure confirmed by the source to be the closest to the reality he witnessed and which he was part of.
About the route of the trucks carrying the bodies, the source explained that they enter from the main door empty, then to “Rahba” and after about two hours, they leave with loads of bodies, but the exit from the door of dignitaries (a door overlooking the road of the People's Palace and dedicated to the entry of senior hospital officers and senior officials, from which enters Asma Assad and her husband Bashar).
The first to start the splitting from the army was a recruit from Deir al-Zour, and so was his destiny
About the destination of the trucks after exiting the hospital, the source stated that it was to the hospital "Harasta", where it is said that there are crematoria to transform the bodies to ashes, and here we intervene to ask the source whether the destination is already the hospital of Harasta or Tishreen Hospital, because we have confirmed information about the existence of a crematorium at Tishreen Hospital. However the source confirmed that the destination of the bodies was Harasta military hospital indeed. (only a few kilometers between the Harasta hospital and Tishreen hospital).
About the type of these trucks and their timing, according to the source, the trucks often came either at noon or after eight p.m. They were not of one type, but they all came with security escorts, and the driver left them immediately after stopping at al-Rahba for "loading". He comes back only to start again, so it was impossible and even forbidden to talk to him or to ask him about any thing, because that was enough to put the person in the circle of suspicion and targeting.
A bout the way of loading the corpse, the source said that a group of soldiers used to climb into the truck's box (often covered with shader) to receive and to arrange the bodies. The improper arrangement of the bodies meant that the truck would not be accommodated, which would lead to recharging, that costs a lot of time, effort and fatigue associated with the smell and ugly corpse views.
"Abu Suleiman" presented his innocence excuse in the murder of a recruiter named "Khubat" saying that he killed him because he insulted the higher authorities and won the patent.
That’s why some soldiers did not care how to carry the body to the truck or how to throw it, because they only want to finish their mission that represents a nightmare for him and a burden on him. In contrast there were those who find in this mission a "hobby" during which they exercise their sadism, including the recruiter "Ali Brazi ", Who did not care for the sanctity of death and did abuse the dead bodies.
The loading of the bodies is done in the presence of the administrative officer (Mlouk and then Zouda), the management officer is the owner of the register of names of those who have been liquidated, and he is the only authorized to match their names, with the numbers on the bodies of the victims (numbering the victims without giving them names, provided the system with several benefits Including the full concealment of the identity of the victim, so that no one can identify the body's owner by name, with the difficulty of identifying the body through its features because the body is often distorted and highly disfigured, and the numbering prevented any opportunity to change the name of a living person by the name of the dead, with the aim of extricating the living person either out of close knowledge or taking bribes, for example).
When asked about the structure of the 601 military hospital and its facilities, the source stated that the hospital includes a number of buildings located within one area, under one name, "the Martyr Hospital, Yusuf al-Azma
After entering the main door, To the right stands the clinic building. To the left is a 6 floors building. The ground floor includes sections of the ambulance, the laboratory and the restaurant. The first floor includes: the hospital director's office, radiology department, Head of Nursing. The second floor contains: Department of Operations, intensive care, pharmacy and sterilization. The third floor contains the two departments of ophthalmology,and orthopedics. These two sections were transferred to another building after being transformed into a full wing reserved for the Assad’s wife, Asma al-Assad.
The fourth floor consists of the otorhinolaryngology and general surgery sections. The Cardio and Neuro section is located on the last floor of the building, which connects to another building which is nearer to the People's Palace road, composed of 5 floors, through an underground tunnel of 75 meters and about 2 meters width, made specially to refrigerate and transfer the dead bodies.
At the heart there is the hospital’s "old building" which includes both: Office of the Security Officer, Office of the Administrative Officer, Department store, Register Department, and the Finance Department.
Near the "old building" there is a so-called "Nadwa" where food and drinks are sold, and near what is called the "garden".
At the far left of the place are the soldiers dormitories and the hospital warehouses, and in the vicinity of them are the "trauma section". Then the kerosene (fuel station) and the machinery section, and finally the garage (which has been converted to a place to dump the bodies and packaging them before deportation).
• Seventy corpse were deported every week, making the hospital an active "production line" equivalent the “production” of the entire intelligence branch
In all these sections and buildings, military personnel (officers, warrant officers and soldiers) and civilians, who have different types of their participation in the murder and the torture. The main headquarters is the "trauma section", which has become a formal abattoir and a "death line".
The intelligence’s choice for the trauma department was not futile. It is a "secluded" section located at the far end of the hospital, far from the eyes and ears of those who visit it. It is also a non-large section, as it is limited to only 5 rooms. The departement was "very typical" in its isolation and narrowness to be a center of torture and murder
On this occasion, the source remembers that, in 2012, a team from the United Nations tried to visit the hospital and tour it, to check the credibility of the rumours raised around it. So the regime’s intelligence fabricated an incitement scene, that showed the "civilians" resentment and rejection of the U.N. delegation, condemning them. So the delegation left under the pressure of the “Dissatisfaction and popular discontent” without being able to enter and inspect the hospital departments.
Despite the existence of a sufficient number of Shabiha militias who are ethnically recruited and politically motivated to practice the most severe forms of violations and abuse against the detainees, who were called by the regime "terrorists", the regime's intelligence did not entirely count on them. Instead, they appointed guards and supervisors from their intelligence agents, who, when necessary, they call for the help of the hospital staff.
Since the hospital has been transferred to a prison and a killing center, approaching the trauma department has been forbidden to the hospital’s staff, only in case to be close to carrying out a "mission", such as "loading" the bodies. It is an unforgivable crime, that any recruit attempts to enter the building, or to survey what is going on in it, because his fate at the time will not be better than the fate of "carried" bodies.
Our source asserts that he was never able to enter the trauma section, but he heard the screams of torture (some of it was unbearably terrible) when he was passing by, or when it was night time, when the movements and sounds could be heard remotely.
Although the entry of the trauma department was forbidden only to the intelligence agents and those who trusted them, the "criminals" had nothing to hide or fear from. The source stated that the bodies of those who had been killed were displayed in front of the building (to be seen by everyone passing through the hospital staff) ) before being transferred to Rahba. He personally does not forget the image of the body of girl in black (martyr Rehab Allawi, whom Zaman Al-Wasl had previously identified her), it was the harshest picture stuck in his imagination, despite all the horror he witnessed.
Asked whether the source had examined the body of any other woman, he replied no, stressing that he had repeatedly seen the bodies of children who speculated that some of them were between the ages of 14 and 15.
Most of the recruits soldiers are Sunnis, only the fifth of their original number remained, while four-fifths have been killed or splitted.
In addition, the source was asked whether the bodies of the murdered in the trauma section were directly loaded from the hospital , other than the bodies that came from the security branches. To our surprise, the source replied that the majority of the bodies were discharged from the trauma section and that only few bodies came from the security branches.
At this point we intervened, to ask two questions: If the average bodies that are loaded weekly 70 bodies, does the trauma department used to contain 60 bodies? He replied: Yes it is, Our hospital used to be equivalent to the intelligence branch in its entirety!
Syria is not a member of the International Criminal Court. The only way the court could prosecute someone from Syria would be through a referral from the United Nations Security Council.
More than 560,000 people have been killed in Syria since the revolt against Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, the United Nations says.
More details provided by the source:
• We all saw and came across the photographer, who was photographing the corpse, but we could not talk to him or approach him.
• Officer 'Mohsen' used to go from the vehicles Department to the trauma Department only to pass by the detainees and curse them.
• Mahmoud Zahwa, Ahmed Khaddour, Yarab Esber and Hakim Khatib were among those accompanying the intelligence agents in the trauma department.
• Officer Rami Hammoud head of the maintenance department was one of the most dedicated of the shabiha militia, as well as Officer Mohamed Diab.
• After the hospital was turned into a slaughterhouse, the task of guarding it was entrusted to heavily armed Republican Guards, accompanied by hospital recruits carrying guns without ammunition.
• After the outbreak of the revolution, the recruits' permits in the hospital have stopped and became rare and exceptional.
• More than one soldier had defected the army, under the pretext of participating in a funeral ceremony for one of his relatives. Therefore, since then granting permission to participate in the funeral requires the presentation of an official death certificate.
• Despite the decrease in the number of recruits due to the split or the transfer to the fronts, they were not compensated because the regime's army was suffering from a severe shortage and needed to close the gaps on the fronts.
Zaman Al Wasl- Ethar Abdul Haq