MEP Alyn Smith, Scottish member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, finally received approval from the European Parliament's President to host a highly sensitive exhibition on human rights violations in Syria, after the same exhibition was hosted by the US Congress and UN HQ in New York.
Despite months of preparation the College of Quaestors of the European Parliament decided to ban MEP Alyn Smith's exhibition of 35 torture photos from Syria's Caesar report, which are part of 55,000 photos that were leaked by a defecting Syrian forensic officer who was in charge of taking photographs of the thousands of Syrians who were imprisoned and tortured for peacefully protesting against Assad's regime.
MEP Alyn Smith said:
"I am satisfied with the decision of President Martin Schulz to exceptionally allow for this difficult exhibition to be shown here in Brussels - we will put a warning notice and ensure children cannot see those photos of course, following the Quaestors' remarks.
"Europe and the international community need to do much more to address the Syrian crisis, 40% of Europe's newly arrived refugees come from Syria this year, 12 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance, but only a political solution will actually solve the crisis and one must be found urgently.
"By showing the photos at the heart of the European Parliament, I and the other co-sponsors from five political groups and countries in Europe are sending a strong message: there will be no peace without justice in this region, the perpetrators of crimes against humanity must understand that there is no carte blanche from Europe on what is happening, neither for the crimes of extremists or opposition nor for Assad's heinous repression of his own people."
Following weeks of intense negotiations to allow a sensitive exhibition to be held at the European Parliament, MEP Alyn Smith, who is the leading host of the event, succeeded in getting the exhibition authorised.
The college of Quaestors of the European Parliament had banned MEP Alyn Smith's exhibition altogether two weeks ago, on the basis that the photos should not be seen by children due to their upsetting and graphic content. However, MEP Smith argued that the same photos were shown with restricted-access at the UN Headquarters in New York, as well as at the US Congress, and therefore the European Parliament could host it with restricted access too.
On the Caesar Exhibition:
The Caesar Exhibition displays photographs of detainees from the Syrian regime’s prisons and detention centres. The photographs were taken by a former military policeman of the Syrian army – known by the pseudonym “Caesar” – who fled Syria in 2013. Caesar smuggled out with him over 55,000 photos of approximately 11,000 Syrians tortured by the Assad regime. The 11,000 victims he photographed represent only a fraction of the systematic torture and killing that took place inside Syrian regime’s prisons.
The veracity of the photographs was confirmed by an international team of medical experts and endorsed by the UN Independent Inquiry Committee on Syria.