Prison without bars: A new report on the Caesar photographs and their present impact on the victims families in Syria

Press Release

Berlin/Paris, May 2022.

Eight years after the Caesar photographs appeared, the photographs have been deemed the “crime of all times”. Those evidences that documented the crimes of the torture machine of the Syrian government after taking pictures of more than /6800/ victims, that represent a partial sample of the deaths that took place in detention centers and security branches in Damascus governorate and its countryside, and who were transferred to Tishreen Military Hospital in Qaboun neighborhood and /601/ in the Mazzeh district. Among them were pictures of loved ones; Of sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers.

Today, the Caesar Families Association (CFA) and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) are releasing the report “Prison Without Bars” with support of Impunity Watch, as the fruit of their cooperation, to be considered an additional step on the path towards truth and justice for the forcibly disappeared and those who died under torture.

The report, Prison Without Bars by the Caesar Families Association and the the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression displays violations of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance related to torture that leads to death, or ends with execution either outside the law or through summary procedures, or keeps the victims missing. The report examines those violations impact on the families of the victims, by working with a sample of the families in Caesar Families Association, whose loved ones identities were documented by the Association in the photos smuggled by Caesar in 2014. This report provides a picture of the complex, continuous and extended violation that affects the majority of Syrian society. According to the lowest estimates of the number of missing persons in Syria, 100,000 people have gone missing during the past ten years, i.e. within 3650 days. Approximately 30 victims are documented missing persons daily. Those are not final numbers of the victims of the complex violations, excess of violence and denial of basic rights, the right to life, physical safety and knowledge of the truth and others, primarily practiced by the government.

“When I received news of torture in detention centers and what they practiced, I read a little and could not bear to continue reading. Description of starvation, murder, flaying, and rapes. Imaging that a person dear to you was going through all of this was a devastating feeling. Even if he comes out, he will emerge as he lost mind, detached from reality, or a semi-human being… semi-alive. It is impossible for a healthy person to come out, it is impossible… but if he dies, he will have rest… end of torture.”

Yasmine recognised her brother’s picture in Caesar photographs.

Caesar’s photos have passed – at least once – on the sights and ears of every Syrian, however, its impact, despite many years, is still present in the minds of the families of the victims. having these photos and examining them was the moment when most of them knew that the suffering of their loved ones had ended some time ago, and that the nightmare of torture had passed on them, so that their suffering would remain as the families of the victims by losing loved ones, and their quest to obtain the most basic rights of the victims, which is to bury their remains.

Once, “A Shaweesh” told me that they were asked to bring a blanket and go upstairs. Upon their arrival, they were surprised by one of the detainees covered in blood and swimming in a pool of blood, as he had been severely tortured, and hit with a hammer on different areas of his body, especially his head, until he died.

From the testimony of a former detainee in Branch 215 to VDC.

Despite all the pain associated with the details of these photos, the members of the Caesar Families Association stressed the necessity of the role of these photos in accountability to curb the killing machine, and they stress their role in advocating for the cause of detainees, whose numbers exceeded /150,000/.

“When I received the photo, I was shocked and lost for four or .ve months, unable to comprehend anything around me. I reached the point of losing focus in my work as. I sell Tannoor bread, the customer gives me 10 pounds and I give him back 20 pounds!” 

R. Kh. Was only eleven years old when he recognised his father’s picture in Caesar photographs.

The report concluded with a set of recommendations by the “Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression”, and the “Caesar Families Association” to the Syrian government and its institutions, which in its general form are directed to any government in Syria now or in the future and to government agencies to deal with the file of missing persons. As well as to the United Nations and its various agencies, the international community and relevant international organisations, and finally to the Syrian civil society within the framework of the efforts in the file of the missing and their families.

The Caesar Families Association (SFA), in cooperation with the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), will address the report through a 90-minute webinar, at 16:00 CET on Tuesday 24 May 2022.

For inquiries and further information, please contact:

Caesar Families Association (CFA) at, communication@caesarfamilies.org

Or

Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression at, info@scm.ngo