If true, it's a serious accusation.
Al-Arabiya quoted Free Syrian Army sources Friday in a report stating that the regime forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad are operating a network of doctors and military officials, responsible for illegally harvesting organs and selling them for highly inflated prices.
According to the report, physicians across Syria are collaborating with military officials to harvest the organs of severely wounded patients and political prisoners and deliver them for sale. Each victim is announced dead after excruciating torture in prisons, then whisked away while still alive to a secret location for organ harvesting.
The most sought after organs are allegedly the heart, eyes, kidneys, vertebrae, cartilage, joints and muscle tissue. All are flown to Russia for sale through the Russian mafia to Iran and India.
The report claims that prices for the organs are high: $20,000 per heart, $25,000 per eye, $15,000 per kidney and $10,000 for other organs, depending on the age of the person from whom they were harvested.
A Saga of Syrian War Crimes
The report remains unconfirmed, and similar rumors have been flying around the web for days, even several months.
If true, however, the report corroborates confirmed evidence that Assad's forces are guilty of horrific war crimes against the Syrian people, including the usage of starvation as a political ploy, cruel and unusual punishment, chemical weapons, and torture.
A January intelligence report revealed that the regime forces had been systematically killing Syrians in methods similar to the organ harvesting report - by faking their deaths and keeping their torture carefully logged.
"This report is extremely alarming, and the alleged scale of the deaths in detention, if verified, is truly horrifying," Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN rights chief Navi Pillay, told AFP in an email at the time. "Allegations this serious cannot be ignored and further investigation is clearly necessary."
Both Pillay's office and an independent commission of inquiry on Syria, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2011, have already documented a number of cases of torture similar to those described in the report, but not on such a large scale. UN and US officials noted that photos of the torture were "horrific" and "horrible to look at."
In December, Pillay said for the first time that war crimes by pro-regime forces in Syria were authorized "at the highest level," including by Assad.
So far, over 130,000 people are estimated to have died in the Civil War since 2011.