The former Syrian military photographer code-named Caesar, who in 2013 fled the country with around 50,000 graphic photos of detainees tortured and maimed in Assad’s prisons has been presented with an international human rights award.
The jury of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award on Sunday said they decided to give the 2017 accolade to Caesar because he and his colleagues “have been driven by a desire to ensure that there is no impunity for documented human rights crimes, incurring major risks.”
The cache of photos, showing emaciated bodies and people with their eyes gouged out, was smuggled out of Syria in 2013, providing a dossier of crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The Nuremberg award’s citation praised the bravery of the former officer, who “suffered immensely, seeing and experiencing this every day.” At the start of the revolution in Syria in 2011, Caesar was ordered to photograph the corpses of detainees interrogated in military hospitals as well as formal and secret detention centers.
Caesar’s mission was to provide photo evidence to the authorities who would then produce death certificates showing falsified causes of death. The photos were also used by intelligence officers as evidence of having fulfilled their duties.
Cesar secretly copied the images and fled Syria in July 2013.
In January 2014, the photos were published online by Human Rights Watch, which confirmed the authenticity of the images in a report called If the Dead Could Speak: Mass Deaths and Torture in Syria’s Detention Facilities.
Three former chief prosecutors of international criminal tribunals confirmed that Cesar’s evidence was “reliable and could safely be acted upon in any subsequent judicial proceedings.”
Cesar now lives in hiding in northern Europe and will not be able to receive the award in person.
The Nuremberg accolade is awarded every two years to individuals or groups who have committed themselves to human rights, sometimes at considerable personal risk. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Smart News Network)