With More Evidence of Assad War Crimes, Is Transitional Justice Possible in Syria?

With More Evidence of Assad War Crimes, Is Transitional Justice Possible in Syria?
Syria U.N. ambassador Bashar Ja'afari listens after a U.N. Security Council vote on referring the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court for investigation of possible war crimes, May 22, 2014 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

Last week, a former Syrian military photographer, his identity hidden under a blue hoodie, appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee with thousands of photographs allegedly showing widespread torture and killing in Bashar al-Assad’s jails. Known as “Caesar,” the photographer defected last year with a trove of what he says is evidence of mass atrocities in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil-war: 55,000 photographs of more than 11,000 victims—many of them tagged and numbered.

The photographs first came to light last January, in a report by three prominent international lawyers who previously prosecuted cases at the criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone in the 2000s. The photographs, they concluded, were evidence of "systematic torture and killing" of Syrian detainees.

Whether showing that evidence to Washington lawmakers will impact Syria on the ground is another matter. Before Caesar addressed the House committee, its chairman, Rep. Ed Royce, told the chamber, “One cannot see images like these and not ask, ‘what can be done?’”

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