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"Caesar" Photos Victims Identified; American and Russian Spending a Year in Space; Imagine a World. Aired 11-11:30p ET

Aired December 16, 2015 - 23:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: Assad's shame. After this program revealed shocking evidence of torture at the hands of

the Syrian regime, that evidence and more is now being taken to Moscow, Assad's biggest backer, after doctors confirmed the atrocities.


DR. NIZAM PEERWANI, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: They clearly show that these people has been starved to death and many of them, they clearly show

injury patterns that are not consistent with falls. They are consistent with torture.


AMANPOUR: Plus an out-of-this-world interview from the ISS. U.S. and Russian astronauts tell me there is no room for politics in space.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

America's top diplomat and Russia's president try to find common ground over Syria. John Kerry sat down with Vladimir Putin and Russia's

foreign minister Sergey Lavrov today. Kerry said that both countries were united in defeating ISIS or daish.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I reaffirmed to President Putin that the United States stands ready to work with Russia to defeat daish,

provided, obviously, that Moscow chooses to direct its fire on the real threat, which is daish.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): While back home in the United States, in last night's CNN Republican debate, the leading contender, Donald Trump, aligned

himself with Putin's position, declaring the U.S. should work with Assad to defeat ISIS.


AMANPOUR: All this as Human Rights Watch releases a new report backing up evidence of systematic torture and killings by the Assad regime.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Almost two years ago, we, along with "The Guardian" newspaper, brought you an exclusive report on the, quote,

"Caesar" photographs, tens of thousands of horrific images smuggled out of Syria, which show the bodies of detainees allegedly killed while in

government custody.

International jurists say the evidence would stand up in court and Human Rights Watch bolstered that evidence by interviewing family members

of the victims, defectors and former detainees. Here's an account of one man who made it out alive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).


AMANPOUR: I reached Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. He's in Moscow, where he's trying to show officials

the true face of their ally in Syria.


AMANPOUR: Nadim Houry, welcome to the program.

NADIM HOURY, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: Let's start by putting this all into context. You are in Moscow to release evidence that has been assembled about some pretty

horrific allegations of torture by the Assad regime.

Now, of course, Moscow is the biggest backer of the Assad regime and we have some latest data that I just wanted to put to you, that something

in the region of 96 percent of the civilians killed in Syria have been killed by government forces, according to human rights organizations.

And of those who have been tortured to death in Syria, 99.5 percent of those by government forces.

What do you expect the Russians to respond when you tell them about these statistics?

HOURY: You know what, we hope the Russians will respond to it, particularly by looking at the report on the "Caesar" photos and the record

of the government is to say, look, you have a responsibility to exert pressure on your ally so that these violations, these basic abuses, stop


AMANPOUR: Now I'm going to show some of these pictures and they are pretty gruesome.

On the one side it shows people who are dead and on the other side it shows them alive; presumably you got them from the families.

And in this case, this is a child.

Tell us the impact of being able to get those photos and compare alive and dead.

How did you get the families, how did you get that evidence?

HOURY: So in March 2015, a Syrian group posted --


HOURY: -- thousands of images of the faces from the "Caesar" photos online. And families in Syria, but in refugee camps across the Middle East

and in Europe, spent days and nights going through these photos, looking for loved ones because there are tens of thousands of disappeared in Syria.

And basically we started looking for these families. We went to see them. We saw them in Turkey, in Lebanon, in Jordan, in France, in Germany,

anywhere we could find them. We tried to piece together the story of those people.

What were they like before?

Because, after all, they're not just a number like they appear in the photos. They're also someone's son, someone's nephew, someone's husband,

someone's father. And we actually also have cases of children who died in detention as well as one woman whom we actually tell the story in the


AMANPOUR: Was there a story that particularly stood out for you?

I mean, I was stunned to see women but even more stunned obviously to see children, young teenagers.

HOURY: You know, one of the stories that has stayed with me is the story of 14-year-old Ahmad al Musalmani. I mean, he was a young kid, a

teenager from Daraa; his family sent him away to Lebanon when the uprising began because they were worried that he may be shot at at a protest or be


He came back a year later to attend his mother's funeral, who died of natural conditions. He was stopped at a checkpoint.

And when the security services at the checkpoint checked his cell phone, they found a song that was against the regime. And that was enough

to get him off that minibus that was taking him to his mother's funeral.

And it basically -- the horror for his family began. His uncle, who had almost raised him, spent months and months looking for him. The uncle

showed me the piece of paper, where he actually kept track of every single day he went looking for his nephew.

And then in March of this year, went looking through the photos, found his nephew.

And when we showed the "Caesar" photos of this particular case to a medical examiner in the U.S., what they told us is he had died probably a

few weeks after detention from blunt force. His body was bruised. He was beaten to death.

AMANPOUR: It is really a horrendous story.

And after we broke the news of this on our program, we went to Russia and we interviewed Prime Minister Medvedev. And I showed him pictures that

had been brought out, those pictures published by "Caesar." And they were pretty horrendous.

And we're going to show you a little bit of that interview.


AMANPOUR: I want to show you a picture. This is a pretty shocking picture. It shows an emaciated Syrian. And these are pictures that a

defector, who used to be military police in Syria, brought out. There's 55,000 pictures seeming to show that 11,000 people, prisoners, were killed

by the Assad regime.

Again, what is your reaction?

This is a direct accusation that would stand up in court, according to these jurists, against the Assad regime.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): You know, in my university where I was studying law, I was taught that until

the fact of guilt is proved in court, a person cannot be claimed guilty.

All those crimes-- and these are crimes, of course -- should be, should have firm proofs legally.


AMANPOUR: So, Nadim, the Russians, many other backers simply say you can't blame Assad. There's no proof.

And I must say Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, said to me the other day when I was interviewing him, that he's stunned that more

people in the West and elsewhere haven't been protesting against the Syrian authorities for the wholesale murder, torture and violation of human rights

that the Syrian authorities have carried out against their own people.

What are the Russians saying to you today?

Are they still denying that Assad could be responsible for that?

HOURY: We had a meeting at the ministry of foreign affairs this morning. And we're hoping that will be the beginning of a more

constructive dialogue with the Russian authorities.

They are still maintaining distance from these photos. They still say, look, these photos were tainted by the fact that Qatar had paid some

international jurist to look at them.

But the evidence is overwhelming. We know exactly that these people died in government detention. We know who detained them. And we actually

know the bureaucracy of death that was set up.

I mean, these were not isolated cases. There was a system in place. There were actually documents, transferring the bodies from the detention

facility to the military hospital.

There are orders to take the photos at the military hospital, photos to actually bury people after the photos have been taken, all these have

the signature of officials. They are authenticated. We have satellite imagery to confirm --


HOURY: -- where the photos were taken, at the 601 Military Hospital in Mezzeh, just under the hill from the presidential palace of President


So of course we know this is the regime that is responsible.

The question is today, what is Russia but also what is the international community going to do to put an end to these practices?

What are they going to do so that the families that have been waiting now for years to know the fate of their loved ones actually finally get


And for those who finally found, unfortunately, their loved ones dead in these photos, what are they going to do so that these people get an

answer as to what happened to their loved ones so that they can properly bury them?

And also, what are they going to do to hold those responsible -- those officials responsible accountable to these murders, to these crimes against


That is the challenge today. It may be an inconvenient truth at a time when everyone wants to ally to fight against ISIS. But it is the

truth and it has to be faced.

And without facing it, there can be no sustainable peace in Syria.

AMANPOUR: Nadim Houry, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

HOURY: Thank you for the opportunity.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, an interview from the final frontier as the world's newest astronauts alight on the International Space Station. A

cosmic first for our show as well.

International Space Station, this is AMANPOUR calling.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Space flight may now seem routine. But it remains an incredible feat of human ingenuity. Sitting atop 157 tons of rocket fuel, three people

were blasted off our planet yesterday, bound for the International Space Station.

Among them, the first-ever official British astronaut, Timothy Peake.


TIM'S MUM: Hello, Tim, it's Mum.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Oh, everyone wants to say hi, Mum, including from space. And astronauts live for months at a time in an apartment-sized

cylinder up there, hurtling at more than 17,000 miles an hour around the Earth.

But spending a year is an extreme experience and two men are doing just that. The American astronaut, Scott Kelly, and Russian cosmonaut,

Mikhail Kornienko. Speaking to someone on the space station is no easy feat. It orbits the globe in just 90 minutes so you have a small window to

make a connection with help from some NASA wizardry. We managed to do just that.


AMANPOUR: Station, this is CNN.

How do you hear me?

KELLY: We hear you loud and clear. Welcome aboard the space station.

AMANPOUR: Well, it is a huge thrill for us to welcome you to our program and for me to be able to talk to you all the way out there in

space. It's really exciting.

But you're halfway through nearly a year-long mission.

Is it ho-hum for you at this point?

Or is it still gee whiz, Scott Kelly?

KELLY: Yes, Christiane. You know, there are certain parts about it that at certain times I do kind of take a step back and I realize I'm

living in space and doing this work that I consider a privilege. But we've been up here now over 260 days. So sometimes it -- the daily routine is

somewhat of a routine.

But there are those moments that impress me and I'm sure Misha in a very profound way.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Mikhail Kornienko, how does it feel to be up there so long, nearly six months now?

MIKHAIL KORNIENKO, RUSSIAN COSMONAUT (through translator): Actually - -


KORNIENKO (through translator): -- it's not six; it's nine months. So I'm feeling fine -- besides my crew is just great, wonderful. All the

crews that worked on board with me are great professionals.

Of course, as any of us, I miss my family, my home. But I can say that I am happy, excited and very proud to be entrusted with this mission.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you both, as I love watching you float that microphone back and forth to each other, you are watching our planet with a

view unlike anyone else in this universe right now.

And you've just seen a climate deal reached in Paris, about 200 nations signing on.

Were you surprised that it would happen?

I know you lobbied for it.

And what is your take on the survival of our planet?

Scott Kelly, first you.

KELLY: Well, you know, a couple of things. I was surprised on the agreement because just to get that many people to agree to anything is

pretty difficult. So in that regard, it was a historic event. And hopefully it'll continue to be supported. I think it has to go back to all

the individual countries and still gain their support.

With regard to the planet, having this vantage point from space, you do see things like the thinness of the atmosphere that are alarming. I

mean, it just looks very fragile. We can see the effects of our presence on Earth by looking out the window. There's certain areas of the globe

that are almost constantly covered with pollution.

We can see weather systems that don't normally occur in certain areas that we now see more commonly. So I think it's something that's very

important for the collective group of people that require this planet for them to survive.

You know, it's kind of funny; people say we need to save the Earth. I think what we need to save is us because the Earth is probably going to

last a long time. But we need the environment of the Earth to be able to sustain us. So we have to protect it.

AMANPOUR: Good point.

Let me ask you both, obviously your two nations, Russia and the United States, and many others cooperated on this agreement. But they are at

loggerheads on so many other big, big issues today, whether it's Ukraine, whether it's Syria, whatever it might be.

I'm just curious, does politics play any role up there, all those miles away in space?

KELLY: Well, Christiane, so clearly it's something where we're obviously aware of. I mean, we follow the news. It's not something we

generally discuss between each other although sometimes we do.

What's most important to Misha and me and our Russian colleagues and them with us is that we have to rely on each other literally for our lives.

And not only are we great friends but we're completely reliant on each other. If there's an emergency up here, we have to take care of one

another. And that's, for us, the most important thing.

And we understand that there can be conflicts at times between nations.

And I think one of the great things about this space station if we have demonstrated that two cultures that are somewhat different and then

somewhat -- sometimes can be at odds with one another over certain things have demonstrated that they can work together in a very cooperative way.

It's something very, very difficult for a long period of time.

AMANPOUR: And, Mikhail, your view?

KORNIENKO (through translator): I can only join in and say that the international station is free of any politics. We are very polite, always

very considerate of each other in such discussions.

Furthermore, I would say that our work here and our cooperation onboard the ISS is a great example for all politicians because if they

spent at least one month on board together, it would probably resolve most of their problems and discussions on the ground.

AMANPOUR: Well, you've given me and the whole world now a whole great program. Maybe we should send them all up to space and they can solve all

the world's problems up there, like you're working so hard.

What are some of the real kind of hardships, for instance, physically?

I understand you have to really work out hard in order not to atrophy, for your muscles not to break down.


KELLY: Yes, our bodies are pretty smart, you know. They recognize in this microgravity environment that you don't need your skeleton to hold all

your stuff together. So we lose bone mass because we don't need it. And likewise with your muscles.

So we have to do exercise to prevent that from happening.

But there are other hardships, too, up here that we -- you know, we deal with them and we understand it and but the fact that you can't go

outside, I mean, you can occasionally do a spacewalk, but that's not like walking outside in the fresh air or at least a different -- the kind of air

that you experience on a daily basis.

The space station is nice but there's no running water. You can't take a shower. The diet is -- gets pretty routine. So all that is

something that we've learned to live with. But we still understand that it's a big privilege to represent our countries up here.

AMANPOUR: Scott and Mikhail, I know we don't have a huge amount of time. I can see one of your colleagues behind you, who's sort of dancing

and floating around in zero gravity, doing whatever he's doing there.

Can you do something for us?

Can you flip?

Can you dance?

What do you like to do for exercise up there?

Both of you.


AMANPOUR: Oh, my goodness.


All right.

KELLY: So that's not much exercise. But it's fun.

AMANPOUR: Well, Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko, thank you so much for joining us from space today.

It's a big one for me today.


KELLY: Our pleasure, Christiane. Thanks for allowing us to be on your program.

AMANPOUR: Thank you for joining us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Station, this is Houston ACR. That concludes the event. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Well, as we said, the U.K. marks a major milestone sending the first Briton to the International Space Station but he's not the first

ever British astronaut. She is Helen Sharman, who lifted off in 1991, age just 27. Once told by a superior that, quote, "a woman's place is in the

kitchen, not the cosmos," she paid no attention and went on to become a national hero and, to this day, remains one of the youngest astronauts of

all time.

And after a break, we fall back to Earth with a bump as more walls return to the Republican presidential debate.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We will build a wall that works and I'll get Donald Trump to pay for it.


AMANPOUR: Next, imagine a world where the Mexico-U.S. border is a place to bond, no matter how high or how many walls.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, in last night's presidential debate in Las Vegas, a dark portrait of ever more walls, chaos and crime was painted

of the U.S.-Mexico border.

So we decided to imagine a different world where those boundaries fade away. For fun, it's the weird world of Walleyball, where border walls

between two nations are used for volleyball tournaments and where U.S. and Mexican players bond, as highlighted in the Pangea Film Festival.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): There is enough border patrol agents on the U.S.-Mexico border to put about every 1,000 yards on the shores of

the Pacific (INAUDIBLE).

All of the military surplus since the Vietnam War has gone to the U.S.-Mexican border. It's a militarized border. They have heat sensors,

motion detection sensors. They have infrared night scope vision. They use military issue weapons, military issue vehicles, they have fixed-wing

airplanes and helicopters. They have force patrols.

They have really everything you have in a war zone. It costs about $500 for each foot in this wall that they play volleyball at.

How many of you have played volleyball with your neighbors?

Two migrants were found dead today at the border. The majority of the desert right here. This border wall was being purposely built to force

people that crossed over its (INAUDIBLE). So it's really risky.

Crossing the border right now has been compared to scaling the Himalayas or Mt. Everest. That's how dangerous it is to cross the border,

that you need the same kind of training. And of course, you know, (INAUDIBLE).

And this could be solved really easily. It doesn't need a wall. (INAUDIBLE). It just needs a little bit of humanity.



AMANPOUR: If you try really, really hard, you really can imagine a better world.

And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can now also listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on

Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.