A group of families of Syrian detainees announced the establishment of the Association of the Families of Caesar, aimed at seeking justice for victims of torture in Assad’s detention camps and the prosecution perpetrators.
“We believe that justice is the solid foundation upon which genuine and sustainable peace is built, without which there will only be more violence and revenge, and because injustice and impunity are among the most prominent causes of extremism and the continuation of the conflict,” the founding statement read. “We want a better future for our homeland and for all Syrians based on true transitional justice; we declare the establishment of the Association of the Families of Caesar.”
The Association was established with the support of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression and the Violations Documentation Center after a year of efforts between the two centers and the families of the detainees whose photographs, which came to be known as the Caeser photographs, were published.
The aim of the Association is to demand “the proper handover of the remains of the victims, the proper burial of the dead, respecting human dignity and providing psychological, moral and legal support for the families of the victims, ensuring the rights and memories of the victims and their families, contributing to the release of the detainees, and revealing the fate of the missing.”
The Association also stressed the need “to ensure that there is no impunity, to establish a special tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity, to support the transitional justice process based on truth, accountability and equity, to contribute to a genuine and sustainable peace in Syria based on justice, citizenship and human rights.”
Maryam Al-Hallaq, the mother of Dr. Ayham Ghazoul, one of the victims who died while being tortured in an Assad detention camps, said: “We – the parents of the victims – consider the launch of the Association as a first step on the road towards achieving justice. We may wait years, but we need to do this in order to deter the perpetrators of torture and to make everyone accountable, from the most junior guard in the prisons to the heads of security branches and leaders of the regime.”
“My son was martyred under torture after five days of detention in the regime’s jails in 2012, but I did not despair. I stayed for a year and a half, but to no avail. I knew many of the mothers whose children died under torture, but we could not do anything in Damascus, fearing that the regime would arrest more of our family members. Today we are out of Syria and we participated in the launch of the association because we will never give up our rights.”
Al-Mu'tasim al-Kilani, the coordinator of the justice programmes at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, said that the “Association of the Families of Caesar consists of a group of Syrian families who lost their children in the regime's detention camps. They kept waiting until the release of the Caesar photographs, which uncovered the horrors of the crimes and the brutal atrocities their children suffered before they lost their lives.”
“Despite the facts and evidence that have been revealed in recent years, ignorance, helplessness and weakness have been the hallmark of all parties engaging with our cause, including the international community and the United Nations. This was further exacerbated by the push of all parties in the political negotiations and their international sponsors to achieve rapid political gains based on their interests, disregarding the need for justice, which is required for a real and sustainable peace.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.