Spain to Investigate Torture Claims Against Syrian Government

A Spanish court has ordered an investigation into allegations of torture of civilians by Syrian government forces—the first probe of its kind. The case centers on a Spanish woman originally from Syria who said her brother was tortured and executed by Syrian regime forces in 2013. A cache of more than 50,000 photos smuggled out of Syria by a defector in 2013 is at the center of the case, with the woman’s brother said to be among the thousands of victims whose torture and killing was caught on camera. Lawyers for the woman, Amal Hag Hamdo Anfalis, say the photographs prove “state terrorism,” and Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco ruled Monday that Spain has jurisdiction to investigate the allegations. Velasco has asked that both Anfalis and the photographer, codenamed Caesar, testify in April as part of the case. Caesar’s photos sent shockwaves through the international community when they were first published in 2014, though Syria’s government denied the allegations of torture and said there was no way to prove the photos were authentic. Members of the United Nations previously attempted to have the International Criminal Court investigate the Syrian government for war crimes, but Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, blocked the corresponding resolution.