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The brutal attack on Syrian
civilans in Ghouta seems
like bloodthirsty madness.
But is there a method behind it?
Unicef issued a blank press
release today to describe
what's happening in Syria because,
they say, there are no
words to describe it.
And yet there are.
What Assad wants is to repeat
what happened last March in Homs,
when the rebels agreed to evacuate
rather than further harm
the local population.
Closing out this opposition
stronghold in East Ghouta would
effectively represent an opposition
strategic defeat, and the effective
or de facto victory
of the regime in Syria.
We'll ask the UN's
man in Syria what,
if anything, the outside
world can do.
We go to the airport, I cannot get
on the plane with bottled water, but
we leave it to some animal to walk
into a school and shoot our
Silence from the President
as he hears from the families
and the survivors of Florida.
But is he listening?
And this is what Egypt
looks like in the years
after the Tahrir Square uprising.
A military regime more violent
and repressive than ever.
And far quicker
to resort to torture.
The UN has described the situation
in Syria's Eastern Ghoutta
as "hell on earth".
In the face of so much bloodshed,
it seems crazy, unthinking perhaps,
to talk about strategy.
But as the world is forced -
by the sheer level of inhumanity -
to look up, tonight we try
to explain to you what
the Assad plan is.
The answer could lie in looking
at what has happened
elsewhere in Syria -
sustained attacks and bombing
of civilians that raises
the pain-level of the local
population to a point
where they are ready to turn
on the rebels in their midst
and agree an evacuation.
It worked for Assad
in Homs, and in Aleppo.
Rebels eventually agreed to be
bussed out en masse.
Here's our diplomatic
editor, Mark Urban.
Take in the local media
outlets covering Syria,
and you'll learn much
about the objectives and tactics
in this latest offensive.
Syria's own new agency emphasises
the role of East Ghoutta as a haven
for terrorists who've been shelling
areas of the capital for years,
and indeed, in recent days.
of Damascus is full of good
people who face terrorism
and are living their normal lives
despite all the mortars
that are fired at them.
We call on the Syrian Army to hit
them with an iron fist.
If we had evacuated
and stayed at home every
time the mortars fell,
we definitely would not have
remained steadfast at this stage.
School exams will continue,
as postponing them
wouldn't be of any use.
Syrian Army video also portrays
operations against East
Ghouta as a war on terror,
setting it to suitably heroic music.
With rebel groups mopped up
in the east and other major
centres like Aleppo,
the Army is now free to bring more
firepower to bear against the last
major centre of resistance
near the capital.
Closing out this opposition
stronghold in East Ghoutta
would effectively represent
an opposition strategic defeat,
and the effective or de facto
victory of the regime in Syria,
so the significance is huge,
which I guess is why many of us
would be questioning why
the international community
is paying relatively little
attention to what is happening.
Pro-regime media has this week shown
armoured units being moved up
in preparation for ground attacks
on the rebel enclave.
In the meantime, air strikes
are setting the stage.
What's happening in Eastern
Ghouta, essentially, is,
with the backing of Russia,
the Syrian government
has been deliberately
targeting its own people.
This is part of a wider pattern,
a wider strategy, that we have been
documenting for quite some time now.
It's essentially the ugly face
of the Syrian government's strategy,
known as "surrender or starve".
Given the heavy casualties that
would be taken in storming Ghouta,
it's likely the regime will use
a playbook it's already applied
in Homs, Aleppo and elsewhere,
raising the pain level
of the civilian community
to such a level that they
ask rebels to leave.
That leads to evacuations,
often facilitated by humanitarian
organisations, taking buses out
to safe havens elsewhere.
And, indeed, in this report last
month by Iran's Press TV,
a Syrian soldier fighting in Ghoutta
talked about the evacuation option.
the terrorists the chance
to leave to Idlib in green buses.
Now I tell them there
are no more green buses.
Now this is their fate.
But now the evacuation buses
could come back on the agenda,
as the government seeks
to add Ghouta to the list
of conquered places.
With the heavier costs they can
impose on the civilian
population to pivot that pressure
on the armed opposition,
to basically give up or surrender,
exactly represents their best case
scenario, but as I say,
East Ghouta in particular has been
besieged de facto for over five
years, and still it has consistently
presented that kind of stalwart,
to regime control.
So I would suggest that,
like in Aleppo, we will continue
to see a steady escalation
in the bombing campaign,
and then an eventual ground
incursion that, yes,
probably will eventually lead
to that same result.
After more heavy bombing today,
a rebel spokesman in Ghouta said
ceasefire talks had broken down.
But the government has
capitulation in mind,
and many more people may have to die
before those holding out
in the enclave could agree to that.
Joining me now is Panos
Moumtzis, the UN's
for the Syria crisis.
And in the studio Dr Lina Khatib
from the Chatham House think-tank.
Until that point of evacuation, it
is presumably impossible for the UN
to go in and do its job?
moment it is impossible, we have no
or for organisations to go inside
although assistance and everything
we have needed is within ten miles
distance. It is often Damascus where
there is a
there is a urgent need for food. But
more important to protect civilians
in the enclave where there are
thousands of people living at the
moment. Our only hope at the moment
I would say is the Security Council
resolution being discussed to bring
an immediate ceasefire. The ongoing
discussions I hope will bring
results. There is an agreement that
comes to place for cessation of
hostilities that is desperately
Without the UN Security
Council 's, the best way out for
civilians is a deal.
They have to
let the rebels giving? At the moment
it is an extreme situation.
Spiralling out of control, because
it has been heavy bombing that has
taken place for three continuous
days are reports of hundreds killed
and many more injured. Health
facilities have been attacked, water
cut, food is low. Electricity, there
is no electricity in place. People
are afraid to go out, most hiding in
basements. A grim situation. We
think of children, families living
This is a cycle, as we
have heard. Each time the evacuation
happens means that Assad has gained
ground. You understand, I guess, how
involved you are in that cycle?
hope it will not be a repetition of
what happened in Aleppo, that
extreme level where a city or area
is destroyed and more importantly
lives are lost. This is why we are
calling for a ceasefire. A cessation
of hostilities and something needs
to change. The situation is not
business as usual, it is extreme.
Everybody needs to put pressure on
to bring a change.
Could you put
more pressure directly from the
ground on Assad if you withheld
humanitarian aid from the pro-rebel
areas and said you will not provide
aid to his pro-regime areas, does
No, because we are guided
by humanitarian principles, to help
people indeed in all locations. We
are not driven by politics but by
people need. We do not think it
right not to help people in
extremely dim one location in order
to bring a change on ground, we are
driven by severity of needs criteria
or where to help.
This shows the
cycle. The UN is in a position where
it would not deny anyone
humanitarian aid but they are almost
completing the Assad strategy.
has been good at taking advantage of
opportunities and essentially using
UN aid to his advantage but I do not
think in this case the UN can do
You mean on the ground or
the UN Security Council?
The UN on
the ground. And the UN Security
Council has been rendered impotent
by the veto. Every time there is a
proposed resolution can result in
that they have vetoed it.
been asking that for seven years.
Does the UN have any political
I think the UN
can be a vehicle to implement a
political settlement is Syria but we
can no longer rely on the UN to be
the instigator of a solution to this
conflict. I think this is the role
of the United States and the west in
general and sadly we are not seeing
this political will in the west or
the US in particular.
That is a
change because at one stage we said
these problems and conflicts have to
be solved within the region and now
you are saying we need intervention,
you cannot imagine saying that ten
years ago, but you say we want the
US right back on the ground and you
want the UK and the rest of the
country is looking on?
I am saying
it is political will, I'm not
talking about military intervention,
I do not think that could do much at
this stage. What we are seeing is
the west turning a blind eye to what
is happening in Syria and Assad and
Russia are taking advantage of the
inaction to widen the scope of their
activities knowing is no
accountability. Do you think Assad
has won the war? He has not, he is
taking over areas militarily and
only doing so by not just making
rebels evacuate by force, but by
making these areas uninhabitable for
the original residents. We are
seeing a process of democratic
change in Syria that Assad with
Russia is orchestrating and this
will be damaging for Syria in the
In the UK's highest court, defeat
today for the Metropolitan Police
and a judgment that could have far
for all police and crime victims.
The Met lost an appeal
against the awarding of compensation
to two victims of the black cab
rapist John Worboys over
the police's failure
to investigate him properly.
The women had argued
their treatment by police
breached their human rights.
The Metropolitan Police
have accepted the ruling
and are braced for more claims.
I mean, let's be clear,
we've always been held
to account for investigations.
We have a long history of that
and it is right and proper
that the police service
is held to account.
We are a public service,
that's what we do.
Of course, there will be more
claims, there is the potential
for that, and people will no doubt
pore over and look at this judgment,
as we all will, and work through
what are the policy implications?
What do we now need to change?
What are those things,
where do we have to look
at balance and priorities?
Well, to discuss whether this
is a landmark ruling -
and what the implications
are for both victims
and the police - I'm
joined by the barrister
Kirsty Brimelow QC.
Nice to have you. In layman 's
terms, what does this actually do?
What does it change?
significant, because what it has now
set out is that you and I as
individuals, if we are subject to
serious assaults, serious violence
is committed against us by an
individual, and the police commit
serious errors in their
investigation of our complaint to
them about the crime committed, we
can hold them accountable as
individuals. So it's moved away from
any suggestion that the police don't
have accountability to an individual
if it's not them actually who are
carrying out the crime.
If you were
in a police force now, would you be
worried about the cases that might
The police have an
obligation... This is under human
rights law. They have an obligation
to provide an effective
investigation if there is a crime
committed. The article, article
three, means that we as individuals
are protected against inhumane,
degrading treatment and torture, and
its binary. That means the state has
to pass laws to protect us. In this
case there is an offence of rape, so
somebody cannot commit a rape and
there is a punishment for that.
There is also a procedural
obligation on the state that means
they have to carry out an effective
investigation if a crime is
committed. As for some of the
comments coming from the police that
this is a problem for them, they are
saying resources, and one of the
things they are saying is that they
may have to move resources away from
fraud or these type of allegations,
but I have to say I don't see that.
They are obliged to carry out an
effective investigation. In this
particular case, the Worboys case,
there were a series of serious
omissions from the first complaint
that was made in 2003, and it took
them until 2008 to finally carry out
a proper investigation into it. And
they have apologised. This should be
good for the police. We want an
effective police force for the white
if you were perhaps one of the young
men who have been falsely accused of
rape. There was the case of the
young man whose phone messages have
been checked. Under this change in
this law, would he be able to take
this grievance? That would be
slightly different. There has to be
a real egregious error.
have sent him to prison.
to be more to do with issues of
disclosure at the CPS, at the
prosecution stage. They might be
slightly different positions. This
is where someone is complaining of a
crime committed against them,
someone being prosecuted for a
crime. So the same things won't
What sort of cases due thing
will be applied? Individual cases,
or mass cases like Hillsborough? Is
it going to take us to places
What is important is the
common law. Through the courts at
the moment, you cannot bring a case
against the police for negligence,
as an individual. This is a saying
that if there has been serious
failures for a crime committed, very
serious, serious violence, inhumane
treatment or torture, offences like
rape, serious assaults, serious
domestic violence, then with those
cases, I could take the police to
court, sue them, hold them
accountable for their lack of
effective investigation. It doesn't
open the floodgates. It's not going
to be for every single omission or
oversight by the police, but it is
significant, because it should keep
the police on their toes in future.
Thank you very much.
Egyptians will vote in presidential
elections next month.
The former army chief
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi looks
certain of re-election.
Serious challengers have been
disqualified, arrested or have
dropped out of the race.
Human rights groups say
the election will be a farce.
They accuse the President
of presiding over an unprecedented
crackdown on human rights
during his four years in office.
Press freedom is also under attack,
and Egypt is now in the top three
countries world wide
for jailing journalists.
But tonight, we bring you a rare
opportunity to hear the stories
of some of those in Egypt who have
borne the brunt of the el-Sisi
regime, courtesy of the BBC's
Middle East Correspondent Orla
She joins me now.
One that it is nice to have you.
This has been a very tough place to
work as a journalist.
should say thank you to our
interviewees who agreed to be in the
film. I have been based in the
country for four years, and over
that time, people have been
increasingly reluctant to speak.
That fear has been palpable. It's
not just a case of going back to the
bad old days to Hosni Mubarak.
Seasoned human rights campaigners
would tell you that it's going back
to the bad old days. Serious. Lots
of people being tortured. One of the
victims said, torture now is a must.
In the course of making the film, we
were in contact with many families
whose loved ones had disappeared or
been tortured, or killed in some
cases. They wanted to highlight the
abuses, but were scared of reprisals
and too frightened to tell their
stories on camera. It was tricky for
us to make the film. I have worked
across the Middle East over the last
couple of years, including places
like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. From my
experience, taking out a TV camera
is more difficult to do in Egypt
than any of those countries. The
minute you do, the police are on
you. They are trying to shut you
down. It's a country where
journalist 's face high risk,
particularly local journalists. A
number of journalists behind bars at
any time, and you can be accused of
spreading false news, which is an
offence in Egypt. That can be used
against journalists and against
human rights workers. Let's have a
look at your piece.
Welcome to Egypt.
Enticing images of timeless
hospitality and ancient
A picture postcard view
the authorities are keen to promote.
But there is another Egypt,
a military backed regime.
Where dreams of freedom
have been crushed.
It is understandable
to be scared, with a
regime that is not
hesitant about killing.
I've never seen a regime as
bloody as Sisi's regime.
It all looked so different
seven years ago.
This was Tahrir Square
in February 2011.
The night the people broke free
of President Hosni Mubarak.
Ending 30 years of
Or so they hoped.
But now the square feels
like a place of lost
Standing here in Tahrir Square
seven years on, there is
really nothing to indicate that this
was the cradle of an uprising, that
it was here that the people
toppled an autocrat.
The monument is bare,
no list of names of all of those who
were killed, and that is just
the way the authorities want it.
It is as if the revolution
has been erased
and along with it
the hope it brought.
Icons of the
uprising, like Alaa Abd
El-Fattah, have been
treated as enemies of the state.
He was a leading light
of the Tahrir protests.
a software developer.
Alaa Abd El-Fattah was accused
of organising this protest.
The demonstrators appeared peaceful.
The authorities were not.
Others told the authorities
they organised the
protest, but he was still
sentenced to five years.
Another member of
Egypt's Generation Jail.
His fractured family go
through the motions.
Without a much-loved son,
husband and brother.
Human rights groups say
there are thousands like
them in Egypt, families
of political prisoners.
His sister campaigns
against civilians being tried in
In this household, resistance
runs in the family.
But she says the struggle
for change is harder than
ever under President
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The level of bloodiness
is beyond anything I've
ever heard or experienced.
And the way they have
managed to desensitise
people towards death, to belittle
the value of people'slives.
To make people get used
to death sentences,
to forced disappearances
To torture, to torture victims.
This is becoming daily news.
Her brother has another year
to serve, then faces a further five
years on probation with
In this tightly-knit group,
the empty space at the table
is keenly felt.
Those who end up in custody can
expect the harshest treatment.
My sources say torture
is commonplace, but few victims
are willing to speak.
Mahmood Mohammed Hussein
has first-hand experience
of the latest torture
He was accused of attending
a banned protest and held
without trial for
more than two years.
He says the only reason
he was arrested, aged just 18, was
because of his T-shirt.
The slogan read -
a nation without torture.
Aren't you afraid that
by speaking out like this,
that the authorities
could come after you again?
Torture victims used to have one
refuge - the Al Nadeem
Centre in Cairo.
But, last year, the
authorities moved in
and forced it to close its doors.
a psychiatrist, says
the prevalence of torture
Sisi era is the worst
she has ever known.
I have worked in this
field since 1993.
And I have been hearing about this
field since my university years.
What I have been seeing
and what my colleagues at the centre
have been seeing since
2013 is unheard of.
It was never, never ever that bad.
So how widespread would you say
the practice is now?
As widespread as the country.
As widespread as the country.
What would you say to government
officials here in Egypt who deny
there is torture?
You are liars.
I would say, you are liars.
I would say you know
there is torture
because you practise it.
And then there are
those who are hidden
behind the sun.
That's what Egyptians
call the growing numbers
who vanish from the streets
and are held in secret by the state.
the regime is at risk.
Human rights campaigners say
enforced disappearances are a
trademark of the Sisi era.
They have documented
at least 1500 cases in
the past four years.
But they believe the
real figure is much
This is Zubaida, a student of 23,
who wants to open her own business.
Her mother says she and Zubaida
were arrested near a demonstration
in 2014 and convicted
of offences including
attending a banned protest.
She says they were in the wrong
place at the wrong time and spent
seven months in jail,
but were later acquitted.
She tells me that in 2016,
Zubaida was detained
again at a police
checkpoint and disappeared.
She was dumped by the roadside
after 28 days, a changed girl.
But her legal papers show
the anguish did not end there.
As Zubeida was
struggling to recover,
she disappeared for
the second time last April.
Her mother says neighbours
saw her being taken by
armed and masked police.
Zubeida's treasured keepsakes
are just as she left them,
waiting for her return.
Her mother refuses to give up hope,
refuses to be silenced.
We wanted to ask the authorities
about Zubeida's disappearance
and the other cases in this report,
but they wouldn't
give us an interview.
Previously, the authorities
had told me there is no
But if mistakes are made,
officers are punished.
They have also denied there
are enforced disappearances and
widespread human rights abuses.
On the banks of the Nile, there
is little hint of change.
Egypt looks locked in the past.
Elections are coming,
but President Sisi
doesn't need to worry
about the outcome.
Several potential challengers
have been intimidated
out of the race.
Many here are concerned
about security amid bomb
attacks by the so-called
The president says he is
waging war on terror.
But human rights
campaigners say he is using
that as a pretext to
wage war on dissent.
Having been here for more than four
years, I know a lot of the
problems that Egypt is facing.
There are real economic issues.
There are serious
security threats from IS.
But this is the most populous
country in the Arab world and if
Egypt can't steer a course towards
real democracy, that is a problem
for the Middle East
and it is a problem for the west.
And I'm leaving here with questions.
How long before all
of the repression
here starts to backfire, and how
many more prisons can the regime
And you can see a longer version
of Orla's film on Our World this
Saturday and Sunday at 9.30pm
on the BBC News Channel
and on the iPlayer.
In the last hour -
from the White House.
President Trump has been meeting -
in public - survivors
of last week's shooting
at Marjory Stoneman Douglas
High School in Florida
that killed 17 people.
Also there, relatives of the dead.
For over half an hour, the President
sat almost silent as they laid
bare their pain and talked
of the need to open America's minds
to all kinds of solutions to gun
crime in schools and asked him not
to allow this to be just one
more school shooting.
The President opened
proceedings with some words
on tougher gun regulations.
We're going to be very strong
on background checks,
we'll be doing very strong
background checks, very strong
emphasis on the mental health
of somebody, and we are going to do
plenty of other things.
Once the President had
made his opening remarks,
it was a chance for those whose pain
is still raw to have their say.
My daughter has no voice.
She was murdered last week,
and she was taken from us.
Shot nine times on the third floor.
We as a country failed our children.
This shouldn't happen.
We go to the airport -
I can't get on a plane
with a bottle of water,
but we leave some animal to walk
into a school and shoot up children.
It's just not right,
and we need to come together
as a country and work on what's
important, and that's protecting
our children in the schools.
To feel like this, ever, I can not
feel comfortable in my country
knowing that people have, will have,
ever going to feel like this.
to feel safe at school.
We heard from President Trump at the
end of that extraordinary outpouring
of thought and of pain and one of
the ideas President Trump picked up
bomb was to talk of more guns in
schools for specific teachers, he
said that would be something that
could cut short any attack by a
gunman in that situation. Not maybe
the only idea that the students had
pledged to him but we will see if
that goes further in coming days.
Looking at the papers, The Times,
more people should get pills to beat
depression. Extra people should be
offered antidepressants in the
largest study of its kind. Academics
investigating anti-Semitism on
Twitter. That more people shared
tweets that challenged any kind of
racism than shared of the thing
itself. In the Guardian newspaper
the picture of many young people in
America marching for gun control. In
Florida, a day that saw thousands of
people across the States to walk out
and join those marchers. And also
the black cab racist given legal
aid. I think we can cross to the
Washington bureau and speak to our
correspondent in Washington. We saw
some of the speakers and heard from
the president himself. What is your
reaction on what impact that has
made tonight on the President
It seems as far as
President Trump's thinking is
concerned the solution to mass
shootings is not fewer guns, but
more. He said he would be backing
this controversial proposal to
basically have more weapons amongst
school staff, to have teachers
armed, perhaps people in other roles
in the School armed and be able to
adopt what is called here concealed
carrying, to have weapons about
their person. That view was
countered by a man called Mark
Burdon, whose son died in the Sandy
Hook massacre. His wife is a teacher
and he said simply that this could
lead to shoot outs on school
property. He said school teachers
had quite enough to do, based on his
wife's example, already, rather than
act as vigilantes. The president
said he was considering tougher
mental health checks on people who
buy guns in the United States and he
promised his administration would
find a solution to this, as he put
For people looking for a
political sea change from this
Republican president, is your sense
it will come?
Not really. We have
had over the past days signs the
president was keen on limiting
certain... Putting in place certain
limitations on firearms, the backing
of a bipartisan bill for more
stringent back ground checks that
sort of thing, but he appears to
have rowed back completely with the
idea there should be more guns in
schools, not fewer.
That's it for tonight.
Before we go, the world's
biggest and best known
international photography awards,
the Sonys, are about to announce
who's on the coveted
shortlist this year.
Here's a sneak peek at some
of the top contenders.
# Like a sound you hear in your ear.
# No matter what you do, it is going
to have a hold on you.
# California soul.