One of the biggest issues in holding despots and authoritarian regimes to account is how to prosecute offenders for their crimes. There is the International Criminal Court, but not all countries, including the United States, Russia and China, have signed up to it. You can try the UN, but it’s likely that someone will veto (usually, at least one of the same countries). Today, the best hope of holding war criminals to account is through national courts under a concept called ‘universal jurisdiction’.
Since 2011, the Syrian regime has detained more than 100,000 Syrians. Most of these victims have subsequently been ‘disappeared’. Given the nature of Bashar al-Assad’s oppressive government, it’s nigh on impossible for relatives to find out what has happened to their loved ones. Speaking out is a death sentence for you and your family. A defector, codenamed Caesar, stole 27,000 photographs depicting victims of torture from a secret military archive. The Lost Souls of Syria follows the journey to get justice.
As you would probably expect, The Lost Souls of Syria is a harrowing watch. While the subject matter necessitates images which can be difficult to look at, there is never any exploitation or sensationalism in Stéphane Malterre and Garance Le Caisne’s film. The focus is squarely on the fight for accountability and redress, which campaigners are trying to push through national courts. The Lost Souls of Syria highlights a vastly important subject and those who risk their lives to expose these atrocities.
The Lost Souls of Syria screens at IDFA.