In a recent commentary for Breaking Defense, Sean O’Keefe, University Professor in the Maxwell School, noted the opening of President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address in 1981, where the Republican observed that the peaceful and orderly transfer of national authority…
HRW Validates Caesar Report on Syrian Torture, First Reported by Law Professor David Crane
An 86-page report by Human Rights Watch (HRW)—“If the Dead Could Speak: Mass Deaths and Torture in Syria’s Detention Facilities”—has independently validated details of the abuse of Syrian prisoners that were first brought to light in a 2014 report co-authored by SU College of Law Professor of Practice and Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism faculty member David Crane.
The “Caesar Report”—so called for the codename given to the former military photographer who provided the evidence—includes thousands of graphic photos of tortured and murdered prisoners held captive by the Bashar al-Assad regime.
In the wake of the original 31-page report, HRW embarked on nine months of research to reveal some of the human stories behind the more than 27,000 photos that were smuggled out of Syria by “Caesar.” Commissioned by London law firm Carter-Ruck on behalf of Qatar, the Caesar Report’s other co-authors were international prosecutors Sir Desmond Lorenz de Silva QC and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC. This team—which also included forensics experts—analyzed 835 images, 150 of those in depth, uncovering evidence of starvation, beatings and strangulation, as well as an obsessive documentation of the killings. The lawyers also cross-examined Caesar and found him to be “a truthful and credible witness,” according to Crane.
According to HRW, “If the Dead Could Speak” lays out new evidence regarding the photos’ authenticity, identifies a number of the victims and highlights some of the key causes of death. HRW located and interviewed 33 relatives and friends of 27 victims whose cases researchers verified; 37 former detainees who saw people die in detention; and four defectors who worked in Syrian government detention centers or military hospitals. HRW also confirmed that some of the photographs of the dead were taken in the courtyard of the 601 Military Hospital in Mezze.
“Although two years have passed since the original report was issued related to the torture, starvation and death of around 11,000 Syrians, this report by Human Rights Watch validates and expands on this direct evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” says Crane, who testified about the report in front of UN Security Council in April 2014 and the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs in July 2014.
“Just about every detainee in these photographs was someone’s beloved child, husband, father or friend, and his friends and family spent months or years searching for him,” says Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at HRW. “We have meticulously verified dozens of stories, and we are confident the Caesar photographs present authentic—and damning—evidence of crimes against humanity in Syria.”
HRW calls on the global alliance meeting about Syrian peace negotiations to make the fate of Syrian detainees a priority. “Concerned countries should insist that the Syrian government give international monitors immediate access to all detention centers and that Syria’s intelligence services stop forcibly disappearing and torturing detainees.”
To read the BBC story on this new development, click here.
To read the full HRW report on Syrian torture, click here.
Read The Guardian’s exclusive story on the release of the original “Caesar Report.”