Newspaper article International New York Times

Dead Syrian Detainees' Photos Go Online ; Pictures Said to Show Graphic Evidence of Torture by Government

Newspaper article International New York Times

Dead Syrian Detainees' Photos Go Online ; Pictures Said to Show Graphic Evidence of Torture by Government

Article excerpt

The opposition members hope that the victims can be identified and that family members can potentially serve as plaintiffs in war crimes cases.

The Syrian opposition has begun posting about 4,000 photographs of detainees who have died in President Bashar al-Assad's prisons so that family members can try to identify the victims and potentially serve as plaintiffs in war crimes cases that could be filed in courts in Europe and possibly the United States.

Nearly 27,000 photos of Syrian detainees have been turned over to the F.B.I. for analysis, but the Syrian opposition is now taking the unusual step of publishing those in which the victims' facial features have not been blurred or otherwise disguised, as they have been in the past because of privacy concerns. The pictures were smuggled out of Syria by a former Syrian police photographer and renowned defector, who uses the pseudonym Caesar.

Secretary of State John Kerry told a United Nations human rights body in Geneva on Monday that the photos Caesar provided show graphic evidence of torture at the hands of the Syrian government. Many of the faces in the photos are emaciated. Some show signs of beatings. Some of the victims are women, and some are very young. Markings on their foreheads, which were applied by Syrian government officials, indicate the detention center where the prisoners were held and which security agency was responsible for them.

By publishing photos of the victims, the opposition is trying to make it possible for relatives to pick them out and, more important for potential legal action, confirm their nationalities. If some of the victims can be shown to have been dual citizens of Britain, Spain, Turkey, the United States or other countries, that would assist the effort to pursue charges for war crimes in courts in those nations, opponents of the Assad government say.

"It is essential that those responsible are brought before a court of law, whether that is The Hague, New York, London or Madrid," said Toby Cadman, a London-based lawyer who is representing Caesar and his supporters.

The photos are being published on two opposition websites: a Facebook page, StandwithCaesar, maintained by Caesar's supporters, and a site that focuses on the plight of political prisoners and missing Syrians,www. …

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