Briefer smuggled 50,000 photos out of Syria, shares story, photos in public for first time

Washington, D.C. – Today at 9:30 a.m., U.S. Rep.  Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, convened a briefing entitled, “Assad’s Killing Machine Exposed: Implications for U.S. Policy.”  The Committee is being briefed by “Caesar,” a Syrian Army defector who was witness to and a documenter of Bashar al-Assad’s lethal brutality.  This briefing is the first public setting in which “Caesar” has shared his story.

“Caesar,” who is appearing in disguise at the briefing, has smuggled out of Syria more than 50,000 photographs that document the torture and execution of more than 10,000 dissidents.

During the briefing “Caesar” is showing Committee Members a number of those photographs, some of which are available HERE.

***Please note these are VERY GRAPHIC images.

Below is Chairman Royce’s statement as prepared for delivery at the briefing:

Today, we examine evidence of horrific atrocities committed by the regime of Bashar al-Assad against the Syrian people.

The Syria crisis is now in its fourth year.  This is a crisis created and sustained by Bashar al-Assad, who responded to peaceful demands by Syrians for their universal rights with unspeakable violence – even against children.  In doing so, he has placed his own grip on power above the very survival of millions.

The conflict has created unimaginable human suffering.  According to international statistics, 11 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid – which Assad has blocked in many areas.  His “Kneel or Starve” campaigns are just one example of his brutality. 

Others include – targeted killings, mass graves, ethnic cleansing, sexual violence, widespread torture, aerial bombardment of residential areas with conventional and chemical weapons, and the extermination of entire families.

Assad’s brutality, as we know, is underwritten by robust military and other support from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.  Syria is a humanitarian crisis, but a strategic challenge too, as Assad has pulled the entire region into violent chaos. 

Today, the Committee will view images of horrendous violence, carried out on an industrial scale.  It is no coincidence that these photos were shown at the Holocaust Museum earlier this week.  We will see evidence of the Assad regime’s killing of at least 10,000 political dissidents between 2011 and 2013.  The killing continues today.

In April, this Committee unanimously condemned Assad’s atrocities, passing H. Res. 520.  We also passed a resolution authored by Mr. Smith, which called for the establishment of a tribunal to hold accountable the perpetrators of war crimes in Syria.  Pure and simple, these photos cry out for justice. 

We are honored to be joined by four excellent witnesses, including “Caesar,” a defector from the Syrian army, who risked his life to collect and smuggle out of Syria over 50,000 photos of political dissidents tortured and killed by the regime after the protests began.  I offer you a special thank you for speaking to our Committee today.

One cannot see images like these and not ask, “what can be done?”  Answering that isn’t easy.    Mr. Engel was an early supporter of more aggressive action on Syria, when it wasn’t popular.  I’m not sure that’s changed much, but as Committee Members, we are charged with confronting these difficult issues, which are moral issues too. I appreciate our Members attending this briefing, a vivid and depressing reminder that while action can be costly, so too can inaction.