This is “Caesar,” testifying today in court (July 31, 2014)
"Caesar" is a defector from the Syrian regime. A former military police photographer, "Caesar’s" job was to photograph the bodies of tortured and executed prisoners in Syria. Prior to the Syrian uprising, "Caesar" was a crimes scene investigator; following the uprising, he was assigned instead to photograph bodies. Sometime over the past three years, "Caesar" began to smuggle photographs to a trusted source outside of the country. He smuggled over 55,000 photographs of dead, disfigured, tortured bodies of prisoners (largely civilians) before he safely defected and fled Syria with his family.
A legal team in January accompanied by a forensics team examined the photographs in January and questioned “Caesar.” The team, which included former prosecutors for crimes committed in Sierra Leone and former Yugoslavia, released a report confirming the validity of “Caesar’s” testimony. In the report, “Caesar” says that the purpose of photographing the tortured and executed bodies was ensure that the prisoner that had been ordered to be executed was indeed dead, and that commands from the higher authority had been followed through precisely.
In DC this past week, “Caesar” stood in the House Foreign Affairs Committee and testified on Assad’s war crimes. He remained disguised (wearing a blue hood and baseball cap) for his safety and spoke through a translator.
The hope is that since Russia is blocking every opportunity to prosecute Assad for war crimes, if some of the victims in the photographs or known perpetrators turn out to be American nationals or dual citizens, the U.S. could proceed with its own case against the Assad regime. From The Wall Street Journal:
Surrounded by enlarged photos of emaciated and mangled corpses, and wearing a hooded windbreaker and baseball cap to conceal his identity, Caesar compared what he witnessed to the images of Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. He was testifying for the first time in public.
"What is going on in Syria is a genocidal massacre," Caesar, speaking through an interpreter, told the HouseForeign Affairs Committee.
Lawmakers looked on in silence during his testimony, almost to a person covering their mouths and wincing as his words were translated.
One lawmaker called the testimony a moral body blow; another said the panel was overwhelmed by the atrocities. “These are war crimes, plain and simple,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.).