Gruesome Photographs Smuggled Out of Syria Show Widespread Torture, Execution

Editor’s Note: This post contains graphic imagery

A single courageous photographer could turn the tide of Syria’s bloody civil war, after he snuck out of the country with thousands of images documenting brutal torture by the nation’s totalitarian regime.

The photographs were taken by a man identified only as Caesar, a military police photographer who told war crimes investigators that he used to be a forensic investigator. But once the Syrian uprising began, his job became documenting the corpses of those killed in Syrian military prisons.

In two years and working in only a single region of Syria, he compiled 55,000 photos showing more than 11,000 victims. “There could be as many as 50 bodies a day to photograph which require 15 to 30 minutes of work per corpse,” he said in a report released this week.

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The bodies in the photographs show extensive evidence of beatings, starvation and worse, including a number of victims whose eyes were gouged out.

The photographs were intended mainly for bureaucratic purposes, Caesar says in the reports, so military leaders could be assured that the right people were executed. Families of the victims were told they died of heart attacks or “breathing problems.”

A representative for Syrian leader Pres. Bashar Assad denied the images were even taken inside the country. But representatives of the U.S. State Department, British Foreign Secretary, Amnesty International and other bodies said the photographs are irrefutable testimony of widespread human rights abuses that could well rise to the level of war crimes.

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“This is a smoking gun of a kind we didn’t have before,” Sir Desmond de Silva, one of the war crimes investigators who compiled the report, told the Daily Mail. “It makes a very strong case indeed.”

Disturbed by the appalling scenes he was witnessing, “Caesar” began making duplicates of his photos in September 2011 and sending them on thumb drives to a relative who fled Syria and was working with human rights groups. After sharing thousand of images, he feared for his safety and was smuggled out of the country in August 2013.

(via Daily Mail)

Image credits: Carter-Ruck and Co. Solicitors

  • Kynikos

    I am no fan of the Assad regime. I think the widespread reports of torture that have been coming out of Syria for two-years-plus are very likely true.

    I’m a little troubled though that bits of photos are “blacked out” or illustrated with lines. Maybe the tog didn’t put those in and if so I’m probably barking at nothing. But if even one of these images has been photoshopped “for effect” some people will call the credibility of the whole set into question… and the value of the message would be lost. These images need to be displayed absolutely unadulterated (and if that makes some of them too tough, put behind a click-through filter).

  • Alexy Frangieh

    Wait and see… all criteria of professionalism were discarded in Syria, fetching imagery from other wars, “posing” victims, photoshop cloned corpses….too bad that a photo could lie as much as it can say the truth

  • alex

    I think the point is not the validity of each and every single photograph but that such a massive archive of imagery from one source overwhelmingly suggests the evidence likely to be truthful in some manner. I’m sure the ‘professionals’ who deal with this sort of thing, war crimes and all that… will have a far more valid opinion on the matter than a couple of commentators on peta pixel. One way or another, the images sound shocking and the source of the brutality, ought to be tracked down by the appropriate worldwide authorities we have in place and dealt with accordingly.

  • Alexy Frangieh

    Violence is condemned no matter what the context might be, maybe one might not question the authenticity of the pictures, but the whereabouts are questioned in this exact issue. But one just can post “real” photos of victims in a typhoon and spread it as a genocide in another place and time

  • Trausti Hraunfjord

    Blackened out parts… under the black it reads:
    CIA propaganda

    Or… could it be those pictures are some of the ones taken in Abu Ghraib and Kandahar, where US torturers operated freely to torture and kill?

    NOTHING is to be trusted which comes from the US or which “backs” the US propaganda…. that includes those images. The original raw images should be provided in order for fact checking. EXIF data should be the absolute minimum for people to verify.

    Now that the chemical weapons claims have been proven to be nothing but normal US propaganda (Google: MIT report on syria gas attack ), it should be clear to more people that BELIEVING claims is not a very wise course of action. Check the facts first.

  • Jim Macias

    Do you think Assad isn’t capable of committing such atrocities? Is your hate for the US so blinding that other actors get a pass? interesting.

  • Carl Meyer

    Not more overwhelming and no more evident than the thousands of videos on YouTube and LiveLeak that are not going to be used to prosecute anyone.

  • Jim Macias

    Yeah, because we all know that a typhoon produces emaciated bodies with ligature marks that look like they’ve been run over. FFS. Where do you people come from?

  • derekdj

    Before all the conspiracy theorists and “these are photoshopped” jockeys start bashing the images, I suggest reading the report first. I looks like there was due diligence performed by independent digital imaging and forensic analysts, who confirmed the dates and locations of the photographs.

    While true in today’s Iraqi Weapons of Mass Distraction world, we should approach “evidence” with a grain of salt. Let’s not bash accounts based on a blog post with redacted images, click through and read the submitted report. We’re only looking at two of 55,000 images.

    There is already enough verified independent accounts of how brutal Assad’s regime really is. These photos are just more evidence for the pile.

  • Trausti Hraunfjord

    No, I do not think Assad’s forces (not him personally… just to make it clear… you do however attach the evil doings to him personally, as if he would go in person and torture and kill thousands of people) are not capable of replicating what the US has done. Of course they can, and it is entirely possible that they are behind this.

    My point was however that people should FACT CHECK before accepting the claims.

    Remember the “Saddam has WMD’s” claims that resulted in a war killing a LOT of people… all based on lies and propaganda?

    I might also ask you: Is your love for the US propaganda and lies so great, that you can never consider the US to use deception to get their agenda through?

    And no, I do not hate the US. It would be quite idiotic to hate a country… wouldn’t you agree on that?

    Because I am critical of the CIA, NSA, US government(s) and US nationals who have been known to torture, kill, maim and help business interests to conquer or destroy other people and countries, it does in no way make me into a “US HATER” … there are some very naive people who think in such terms, but I hope you are above that level, and can understand that one can (and should) oppose evildoers, without landing everyone around them in the same boat. If you can’t see reality in that way, then we have nothing more to discuss.

  • Jim Macias

    So you’re saying that you should have done some fact checking before you outright declared it to be Propaganda? Fair enough.

  • JustSaying

    I have no sympathy for the Syrian regime, its brutality has been known for decades. But careful with manipulation of public onion to push toward one direction or another, especially when Qatar people, who are supporting financially and militarily Islamic fundamentalists who are beheading people and proceeding with ethnic cleansing against Christians in Syria. My point is, atrocities are unacceptable from any party, but I’m careful with know lying governments like those of the UK, US and Qatar.

  • Trausti Hraunfjord

    Problems reading and understanding?
    You are not the only one, and clearly we have nothing to talk about, since you can’t even provide answers to simple questions.

    Fact remains: The US has a VERY long history of deceiving and demonizing those it wants to invade, bomb, embargo etc. That is why the case in question should NOT be automatically considered to be true until the verifiable truth has come out.

    These could also be pictures of Syrian government soldiers who have been tortured and killed by the terrorist forces in Syria (the ones that gassed their own people and tried to lay the blame on the government forces).

    It took 5 months until the MIT report was issued, proving that the gas attack could not have come from government controlled areas.

    Let’s see what evidence shows up in the coming year or so before drawing conclusions. The US propaganda machine will continue to spit out it’s lies for sure… but the truth will always emerge in the end.

  • Jim Macias

    Well, that’s where we agree. Only time will tell. For the sake of my country I hope that we haven’t made yet another mistake.

    I’m just fascinated by you only being willing to talk about the possibility of it being the creation of the US propaganda machine and not at the hands of Assad and his regime. Why is that? What would your opinion be if it did turn out to be sanctioned by Assad? Or is going after the US the only thing you are here to do?

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    “Maybe the tog didn’t put those in”… This seems pretty obvious, then again, I’m sure I’m biased by listening to the news.

    If some idiot only posts a single snapshot with black arrows overlaid on it; that’s not really news, unless it’s a picture of Bigfoot.

    A UN investigator was describing the THOUSANDS of photos that he and his team [forensic analysts] scrutinized in an interview given on BBC news yesterday.

  • Kynikos

    So go out to the main blog, scroll down three stories, and there’s the AP retracting a photo and crucifying a tog. Let’s not have that happen again, Son.

  • j

    Syria, obviously.

  • madmax

    Ridiculous! More propaganda to justify war? No thanks! Keep your dirty, made in NSA pictures, out of here! This is a photography forum.

  • thanathos

    The article is quite misleading in that the “courageous photographer” might have indeed needed serious courage to smuggle out his pictures but before that he had been the official forensic photographer of the police ie. his paid job was to take those very pictures for the confidential use of the regime’s armed forces. And he did that for quite a long time – pretty much as if a photographer had been dispatched by the SS to document each body in Auschwitz. That shouldn’t qualify the justified moral disgust he must have felt, which ultimately motivated his switching sides but that’s quite far from the romantic vision of a brave photojournalist “somehow” getting hold of tens of thousands of such documents.

  • JustSaying

    Reading with UK Foreign Minister said, it seems that verification involved Qatari (Al Jazeera??); frankly, that’s not a reference considering that Qatar is helping Islamic Fundamentalists who are as brutal as Syrian Regime. Civilians are always caught in the middle

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    ~55,000 photos. I understand having some amount of caution, but please. Especially, if they have brought in forensic analysts.

  • ronald1216

    just exhale onto the lens have a great effect