WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the Committee’s Chairman, today welcomed the unanimous passage in the House of Representatives of their comprehensive legislation to impose new sanctions on supporters of Syria’s Assad Regime, encourage a negotiated end to the crisis, and kick off investigations into the eventual prosecutions of war criminals.

In July, Reps. Engel and Royce introduced The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (HR 5732) named after the former Syrian military photographer who defected to the opposition after documenting Assad’s torture of the Syrian people. This bill would also require reports on human-rights violators in Syria, abuse of cross-border assistance, and the feasibility of a no-fly zone or safe zone over Syria.

“Something needs to jolt this crisis out of its bloody status quo. This bill would give the Administration more tools to do so. It would impose new sanctions on any parties that continue to do business with the Assad regime. We want to go after the things driving the war machine: money, airplanes, spare parts, oil, the military supply chain. And yes, we want to go after Assad’s partners in violence,” said Rep. Engel on the House floor. “Under this legislation, if you’re acting as a lifeline to the Assad regime, you risk getting caught up in the net of our sanctions.”

"Vital U.S. national security interests are at stake, which is why we are acting today to see that Assad’s war machine cannot rain down on the people of Syria unrelentingly.” Chairman Royce said, “Chemical weapons, starvation, and barrel bombs are just a few of the gruesome and brutal tactics millions of innocent Syrians face daily. Yet as the violence worsens, the administration has failed to use the tools it already has to crack down on Assad and his regime. These atrocities have gone on for far too long

The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016 is named in honor of the former Syrian military photographer, known as “Caesar,” who testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2014 about the Assad regime’s torture of Syrian civilians. This legislation would impose new sanctions on Syrian human rights abusersand those who facilitate the regime’s atrocities. It would also encourage negotiations to bring about a lasting political solution by suspending sanctions if parties are engaged in meaningful negotiations and the violence against civilians have ceased. Additionally, the bill would authorize the State Department to support entities that are collecting and preserving the chain of evidence for eventual prosecution of those who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria from March 2011, a recommendation from the late Elie Wiesel.

In Depth: The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act

I. New Sanctions on Syria

The bill would require the President to impose new sanctions on anyone who does business with or provides financing to the Government of Syria, including Syrian intelligence and security services, or the Central Bank of Syria; Provides aircraft or spare parts for aircraft to Syria’s airlines (including financing); Does business with transportation or telecom sectors controlled by the Syrian government; or Supports Syria’s energy industry.

II. Encouraging Negotiations

Under the bill, the President could waive sanctions on a case-by-case basis. Also, sanctions could be suspended if the parties are engaged in meaningful negotiations and the violence against civilians has ceased. Suspension would be renewable if the suspension is critical to the continuation of negotiations and attacks against civilians have ceased.

III. Gathering Evidence for War Crimes Investigations and Prosecutions

The bill would authorize the Secretary of State to support entities that are collecting and preserving evidence for the eventual prosecution of those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria from March 2011 to the present.

IV. Name and Shame of Human Rights Violators

The bill would require the President to report to Congress on the names of those who are responsible for or complicit in gross violations of human rights of the Syrian people.

V. Report on Monitoring and Evaluating Cross-border Assistance to Syria

In light of recent press reports about the abuse of cross-border assistance, this legislation would strengthen oversight on the monitoring and evaluation of such assistance.

VI. Evaluation of a Potential No-Fly Zone

The bill would require the President to submit a report on the potential effectiveness, risks, and operational requirements of the establishment and maintenance of a no-fly zone ora safe zone over part or all of Syria.

SETF executive director, Mouaz Moustafa, discusses the Caesar bill with Al Jazeera television.   

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