Syrians confirm deaths of missing relatives by 'Caesar' photos

Jun 23, 2020

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians searching for their relatives have stepped up their efforts after the US adopted the Caesar Act, new legislation imposing sanctions on the Syrian regime for war crimes.

Families, who had long given up on ever finding their relatives, can click on web links to see photos of some of the thousands of people killed in regime prisons, in a desperate attempt to confirm the death of their loved ones.

Imaduddin Rasit, the founding member of a France-based association monitoring Syrian casualties of war and prisoners, said that more than 6,000 photos of people tortured to death have been shared on the internet.

The photos were first shared in January 2015, with the Zaman al-Wasl news site being the first to publish the leaked torture photos.

Rasit said that 731 relatives of the victims got in contact with his association, with 85% of them sharing personal information on the victims, adding that half of them were also ready to testify in court.

Women, children among Mass Torture Photos

He said the association’s official webpage had been visited by nearly a million people following the implementation of the Caesar Act and that more families seeking information about their loved ones have been getting in touch with the association.

Rasit further noted that his association had published up to 60 photos, not shared before, in February, being careful to take note of the sensitivity surrounding the issue.

The Caesar Act is named after the codename of the former regime military police photographer who defected in 2014, smuggling out thousands of horrific official photographs of some of the detainees tortured to death in Assad prisons; the act came into force on June 17, 2020.

Some of the photos taken by ‘Caesar’ were first published by Anadolu Agency in 2014, making a tremendous impact globally in terms of providing solid evidence of the war crimes committed by the Assad regime, including the systematic lethal torture and starvation of prisoners.

On Dec. 18, 2019, the US Senate adopted a draft law envisaging additional sanctions on people and organizations aiding activities of the Assad regime and its supporters including Russia and Iran.

On Dec. 21, US President Donald Trump signed the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which was included in the 2020 defense budget.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters, with Bashar al-Assad refusing to step down or to consider allowing fundamental freedoms, genuine democracy or basic human rights for the Syrian people who have lived under the Assads’ murderous hereditary dictatorship for almost half a century.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than half of the country’s displaced, according to UN estimates.

- Zaman al-Wasl, Andalou Agency