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Inside Bashar Assad's torture chambers

Photos to be displayed at U.S. Holocaust Museum are 'smoking gun' evidence of war crimes, State Department official tells Yahoo News
 By Michael Isikoff
Yahoo News

The State Department has obtained 27,000 photographs showing the emaciated, bruised and burned bodies of Syrian torture victims — gruesome images that a top official told Yahoo News constitute "smoking gun" evidence that can be used to bring war-crimes charges against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The photos are "horrific — some of them put you in visceral pain," said Stephen J. Rapp, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, in an interview. "This is some of the strongest evidence we've seen in the area of proof of the commission of mass atrocities."

The photos — a small number of which will be put on public display for the first time on Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Museum — were smuggled out of Syria by an official regime photographer who has since defected and is known only by his code name, Caesar.

They were shown at a closed-door session of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July where Caesar, wearing a hood, testified. They are now being analyzed at Rapp's request by the FBI in part as an effort to determine whether any U.S. citizens may have been among the victims — a finding that could be the basis to bring criminal charges in the U.S. against officials of the Assad regime.

The Syrian government has officially denounced the photos as fakes and suggested many of the corpses seen are actually of militants who died in battle.

While FBI agents are still reviewing the photos, Rapp said that bureau officials have already "informally" told him "they think it is impossible they could be forgeries. There is no evidence of doctoring."

(A bureau spokesman confirmed only the review of the photos, adding: "It will take some time to complete the authentication process.")

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