Thousands of people are believed to have been rounded up and killed by the Syrian government
Thousands of photographs revealing the extent of Bashar Assad's murderous regime were taken by a military police photographer, who smuggled the footage out of the country on memory sticks to expose the leader's atrocities.
They were released by the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, instantly drawing comparison to images taken inside Nazi death camps such as Auschwitz in the Second World War.
GRAPHIC CONTENT: DISTURBING IMAGES TO FOLLOW – READER DISCRETION ADVISED
Several photos shows row after row of withered, naked bodies lying on filthy prison floors, with their ribs protruding out of their chests.
Many victims have clearly been flayed, burned or stabbed. One man was missing an eye, another his head. Others were obviously riddled with disease at the time of death.
In further echoes of Adolf Hitler's systematic killing of Jews, the Syrian corpses were marked with an identification code, the unit that killed them and a hospital case number.
Incredibly, Assad has dismissed the 53,000 images as "fake news".
"You can forge anything these days," he told Yahoo News.
The bodies are badly emaciated, suggesting prisoners were starved and dehydrated when they died
You can forge anything these days
Bashar Assad refutes the shocking photographic evidence
"If you take these photos to any court in our country, could they convict any criminal regarding this?
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"Could they tell you what this crime is, who committed it? If you don’t have this full picture, you cannot make judgment. It’s just propaganda.”
But a damning report by Amnesty International last week claimed that, at one prison alone, 13,000 people were killed in a “calculated campaign of extrajudicial execution by mass hangings”.
The gruesome pictures were smuggled out of the country by a police photographer
The report’s co-author Sir Desmond de Silva called the photographs "reminiscent of pictures of people who came out of Belsen and Auschwitz".
A doctor forced to work in a Damascus hospital gave a harrowing account of life under Assad.
His experiences helped form part of the Amnesty report.
The doctor – using the assumed name Nemer Hassan – said bodies were routinely transported from the jails and prisons and dumped outside the hospitals.
President Assad has claimed the horrifying images are faked
Some were deliberately kept alive to act as a warning to others who try to resist Assad's brutal government.
Medics were forced to sign death certificates claiming the cause of death was common conditions such as heart failure.
Nemer told the Daily Mail: It was like a scene from hell. We did not even have time to check if they were dead.
"The first time I refused to sign the death certificate but an intelligence person held his AK-47 to my head and said, 'Do it or die’.”
These graphic pictures depict the horrors of Syrian prisons Mon, February 13, 2017
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT
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Exclusive photos of Syria War Crime Evidences are released by National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called for an end to Assad's "barbaric regime” after seeing the pictures, appearing to back away from his suggestion President al-Assad should be allowed to run for re-election by insisting he "has no future as leader".
But toppling Assad is far from easy.
He is supported by Russia, which has vowed to destroy the Islamic State and restore the Syria government to power.
New US President Donald Trump, who has made little secret of his admiration for Vladimir Putin, also seems to think ISIS, not Assad, needs to be defeated.
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