Assad torturers even more barbaric than Isis jihadists, says former Nato commander

Huge areas have been left decimated by the Syria civil war

Civilians are seen walking among the wreckage of Aleppo's formerly rebel-held al-Shaar neighbourhood, one of many municipalities decimated by the Syria civil war

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A former Nato commander and leading chemical weapons expert has said he "isn't surprised" by the Amnesty International report on Syria and says Bashar al-Assad's troops can be even more brutal than those of Isis.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon spoke to talkRADIO after Amnesty claimed the Syrian government has carried out systematic torture, as well as executing thousands of prisoners by hanging.

Gordon, who spent 23 years in the British army, headed up a Nato chemical weapons unit and now provides advice on chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq, as well as being a director of Doctors Under Fire.

He told Julia Hartley-Brewer: “Sadly I wasn’t that surprised. I’ve been working in Syria for the last five years with various charities [and] many of the doctors who have been held captive by the Assad regime and the so-called Islamic State, they’ve said being held by the regime, the torture was much worse."

Asked by Julia to describe some of the things he has seen on his visits to Syria, Gordon said: "They’re using chlorine barrel bombs, this is chlorine you can buy in the streets. It's a very toxic, poisonous gas, heavier than air and forces itself into the ground where [people] are hiding."

However he said there is some hope - and, despite all the criticism, Donald Trump could be the man to make the difference.

“The Astana peace talks two week ago in Kazakhstan produced a ceasefire. This ceasefire was greed by everybody, including the rebels," Gordon said.

“This is important, for the first time we’ve had all these opposing sides agreeing

“We then have Mr Trump, for all his doings. His travel ban in a way is... saying 'we want people to stay in Syria.' Every Syrian I know in Syria, wants to stay in Syria, or go back.

“He [Mr Trump] has influence over Putin. Putin is the man who holds all the cards here."

Gordon, who helped to get hundreds of children out of Syria before Christmas, also said that he himself is pushing for the UN to take action, specifically to help channel aid to those civilians caught up in the Syrian criiss.

“What I am trying to put together is a UN resolution where we have UN monitors…and UN peace keepers, who will enable the aid that is in Turkey and Jordan to get to where it’s needed," he said.

“The security situation with the jihadist groups is preventing that [aid getting in. However] I believe that, in the area I know very well in north-west Syria, [Britain] could get this aid in and I think the risk is well worth taking. You’ve just got to keep kicking every door."