The Syrian defector known as “Caesar,” who brought the world the largest trove of evidence of mass atrocities perpetrated by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, is returning to Washington this weekend. Three years after he helped expose some of the worst war crimes of our generation, the victims of those crimes are still a long way from getting justice.
Caesar testified before the US Congress in the summer of 2014 and explained to US lawmakers that the evidence he smuggled out of Syria showed only a small segment of the overall Assad regime operation and that tens of thousands of civilians were still being tortured and murdered in Assad’s prisons.
Caesar had hoped the revelation would spur the Obama administration to take action against Assad, and he has acknowledged that he was bitterly disappointed when the United States and its allies refrained from intervening.
Undaunted, Caesar and a fellow defector, a relative who identified himself as Sami, have returned to make a fresh appeal to a new commander in chief. Caesar is scheduled to go to the White House this week to urge President Trump’s advisers to follow through on a pledge to establish safe zones in Syria and take other steps to assist the Syrian opposition.
“We are hopeful that President Trump will do what President Obama refused to do,” Sami said. “I do not believe the time is too late.”
From 2011 to 2013, Caesar worked as a military photographer in Assad’s army, forced to meticulously document the torture and murder of thousands of men, women and children inside Assad’s jails. When he fled Syria in 2013, he brought with him over 55,000 images that show the killing of over 11,000 civilians in custody, along with documents detailing the Assad’s regime highly organized system of mass murder.
The photos, some of which were released publicly in 2014, show bodies starved, tortured and mutilated. The Assad regime kept detailed records. Assad’s “machinery of death” was the worst since the Nazis, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for war crimes Stephen Rapp said at the time.
There are now criminal cases based on Caesar’s evidence filed in Spain, Germany, and France.
In September 2015, prosecutors in the French capital Paris have opened a preliminary inquiry into the Assad regime for crimes against humanity. The investigation was launched following a recommendation by the French foreign ministry.
The ministry handed prosecutors at least 45,000 graphic photographs leaked by Caesar.
“The French authorities received thousands of images from the Caesar files,” then France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
“Photos of the Caesar report – thousands of unbearable photos, authenticated by many experts, that show corpses tortured and starved to death in the prisons of the Syrian regime – testify to the systematic cruelty of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The victims are ordinary people – men, women, children,” Fabius added. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)