Syrian defector who documented Assad’s atrocities returning to Washington

Josh Rogin writes: 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.

From 2011 to 2013, Caesar worked as a military photographer in the Syrian 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 Syrian government’s highly organized system of mass murder.

The photos, some of which were released publicly in 2014, show bodies starved, tortured and mutilated. The Syrian government 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.

Caesar testified before Congress in the summer of 2014 and explained to U.S. lawmakers that the evidence he smuggled out of Syria showed only a small segment of the overall government operation and that tens of thousands of civilians were still being tortured and murdered in Assad’s prisons.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum took up Caesar’s cause and helped build an effort to raise public awareness about the Syrian government’s mass atrocities, working with elements of the Syrian opposition. Caesar’s photos were shown in the halls of Congress, the United Nations and the European Parliament. In 2015, the FBI verified the authenticity of the photos after an extensive forensic investigation.

Now, Caesar is returning to the United States with a simple question: What progress has been made? For those pushing for accountability, justice and a halt to the slaughter, the sad answer is not enough. [Continue reading…]

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