The former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone called graphic pictures of apparent Syrian civil war victims that were shown to the U.N. Security Council rare "direct evidence" of war crimes.
Council members held an informal meeting Tuesday to see some of the 55,000 photos taken by a former member of the Syrian military police.
David Crane, the ex-war crimes prosecutor and one of the authors of a report on the credibility of the photos, told reporters the images implicate the Syrian government and would hold up in an international court.
"It's direct, provable, sustainable, beyond a reasonable doubt evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity being conducted by the Assad regime," said Crane.
He said the photographer "did an incredible thing" in smuggling out the photos, and he described the brutal nature of the images.
"These individuals, make no mistake about it, they died in agony over months of starvation, beatings, torture and then they are in some ways almost mercifully executed," said Crane.
France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said it was important for the Security Council to see the images, as his government prepares a resolution to refer the Syrian conflict to the International Criminal Court.
"After the council fell into silence, after we displayed the images, I asked the council members for their reactions and there were a few moments of silence. Members were truly moved and after a few moments of silence, the members started asking questions about the credibility of the investigation," said Araud.
Araud said he was not accusing either President Bashar al-Assad's government or opposition fighters. Both he and Crane said crimes have been committed by the opposition, but that those are not depicted in the photos.
Nearly 60 countries have demanded that the Syrian situation be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but the decision is up to the Security Council.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said the photos underscore the "brutality" of Assad's government, and that killings were "systematic orders" from the top. She said the Red Cross needs to be given access to prisoners, and those responsible for crimes must be brought to justice.