From the “Caesar Pictures” that documented the systematic killing and torture conducted by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against thousands of civilians, to the evidence of gas attacks that targeted civilian areas of Syria, killing thousands as well, down to thousands of extrajudicial killings, society believes Al-Assad is primarily responsible for the killing of about 250,000 Syrians, and the displacement of millions of them.
With regard to the trial of the Assad regime, the lack of evidence of crimes is not the obstacle to holding the regime’s symbols and president accountable. Rather, the major obstacle and challenge is bringing those involved to court, according to the 60 Minutes program broadcast by the American CBS News Network, whose report on the crimes of the Assad regime in Syria began with a warning. Nader says, “If you have kids watching the show, that’s usually a good thing, but not for this story.”
For 13 minutes, the famous program broadcast horrific testimonies and pictures from inside Syria of crimes committed by the Assad regime against civilians, including gas bombing, the bombing of hospitals and schools, and the disappearance of thousands.
‘It’s hard to see the evidence’
During the report, presenter Scott Wylie presented “hard-to-see” but “must-seen” evidence collected by people who “risked their lives to tell the story”.
The reason for the difficulty of bringing al-Assad to international justice can be attributed to several things, including the “international atmosphere”, “Russia’s veto and Chinese support,” says Muhammad al-Abdullah, executive director of the Syrian Center for Accountability and Justice.
Al-Abdullah told The Eastern Herald that “the political reality surrounding us does not support the idea that accountability will take place, at least in the short term.”
Al-Abdullah links the referral of the Syrian file to the International Court, or the establishment of an international tribunal for Syria, with the chances of obtaining a conviction for Assad, but he says that this “requires a decision from the Security Council, and this is what Russia is on the lookout for.”
Russia has previously obstructed Security Council resolutions on Syria, even those related to establishing crossings for the passage of humanitarian aid to all Syrians.
Al-Abdullah added that “Russia had previously voted to veto the decision to refer the International Criminal Court, so I am not optimistic, at least, about the political balance that is taking place today.”
The stubborn Russian position for a long time also hindered the entry of humanitarian aid across the border into Syria, and this position caused delaying the issuance of the decision, then limiting it to a limited time and only one crossing.
Such an atmosphere in the Security Council “is impossible to pass a court against Bashar al-Assad,” says Al-Abdullah.
Al-Abdullah explains that “the battle for justice is very long,” but “the Syrian situation is different from other countries where atrocities occurred because Assad’s atrocities are documented.”
Al-Abdullah referred to an example of not prosecuting anyone for the crimes in the Lebanese civil war, and also the ability of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, against whom an international arrest warrant was issued, to travel freely, before the popular revolution overthrew his regime in the country.
Al-Abdullah stresses the importance of “collecting and documenting evidence,” noting that there are many documents and recordings condemning the Assad regime, including government files and the so-called “Caesar” photos and other evidence condemning “the crimes committed by all parties in Syria.”
In 2013, the Syrian regime bombed the city of Ghouta with chemical weapons, and international institutions collected evidence of the use of the internationally banned nerve gas against civilians.
Some 1,400 civilians, including hundreds of children and women, are believed to have died in the attack.
Former US attorney Stephen Rapp helps gather evidence against the Assad regime, and confirms to 60 Minutes: “We have evidence of murders, extermination, torture, and rape.”
Rapp also does not believe that Assad’s accountability will be close, but he says, “I’m an American optimist. I’ve seen other cases we thought were hopeless, where no one believed there would be justice, but we succeeded, the possibilities exist and one of the ways we enhance those possibilities is to get On strong evidence now.”
The Independent International Commission for Justice and Accountability has produced and preserved more than 900,000 Syrian government documents with partial funding from the United States and the European Union.
Raab chairs the International Commission on Accountability, stressing that “documents are always directed towards Assad.”
In addition to the documents, there are the so-called “Caesar photos”, which are a large group of tens of thousands of photos taken by a dissident photographer, documenting the crimes of torture and murder that take place in the secret prisons of the regime.
The Syrian regime denies the authenticity of the Caesar photos, and Assad claimed that they are “photoshop, media propaganda, and false evidence,” according to his description.
But a report by Human Rights Watch said that the photos, numbering about 50,000, are authentic and used by the regime for documentation.
صور #قيصر قتلت في نفوس السوريين أي حسّ إنساني تجاه نظام الخنازير ومؤيديه والساكتين عن إجرامه ومجازره أفراداً وأحزاباً ودولاً وأنظمة، وستبقى هذه الصور ماثلة في الذاكرة لقرون دون مبالغة. pic.twitter.com/sMY0BW8MXV
— أسامة حوى Osama Hawa (@abu_ammar_hawa) June 20, 2020
One of the pictures showed the face of Ahmed Al-Maslamani, a 14-year-old young man who was stopped and arrested by one of the Assad regime’s military checkpoints after it found a protest song stored in his phone.
Two years later, the family saw the blue-faced corpse of their son in the Caesar photographs.
“Caesar,” a pseudonym for the photographer who defected from Assad, says, “It is clear that the owners of the bodies were tortured for months before their death.
The Syrian regime uses a numbering system for the bodies that contain identification numbers that clearly indicate the detaining party, the detaining party, and the doctor who signs death certificates.
“This is excellent evidence,” says Stephen Rapp, adding that the FBI has checked the photos and confirmed they are authentic.
الشبكة السورية وثّقت بالاسم 3196 فلسطينياً قتلهم الأسد بينهم 491 قتلهم تحت التعذيب
وما يزال 2663 فلسطينياً مُعتقلاً عند الأسد
العشرات من هؤلاء ظهروا في صور قيصر المسربة التي تضم 55 ألف صورة لضحايا التعذيب في مسالخ الأسد#قانون_قيصر pic.twitter.com/6QVkCKjG6w
— قتيبة ياسين (@k7ybnd99) July 29, 2020
According to an international investigation report published in NPR, Assad has used banned chemical weapons more than 300 times against his own people, killed nearly a quarter of a million civilians, and forced 12 million people from their homes.
Although the reality indicates that Assad’s trial will be contingent on his removal from power in some way, “even if Assad is not arrested, he will be forever shackled by the truth,” says the 60 Minutes program.