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.|
A gruesome and terrifying cache made up of some 55,000 photographs of victims of torture perpetrated by the Syrian regime exposes the horror that took place between 2011 and 2013 in the prisons of Damascus.
For the first time in Italy, an exhibit entitled “Codename Caesar: Syrian detainees of torure victims” a selection of those images produced by ‘Caesar’ – a former forensic photographer of the Syrian Military Police, make up an exhibition that has been shown at the United Nations in New York, at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress, at the Holocaust Museum in Washington and in major European cities.
It is currently showing in Rome and Mouaz Moustafa, Executive Director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force who presented the exhibition to the press, told Vatican Radio that work is ongoing – not only to try and identify the victims in the photographs, but also to try and obtain some justice. Read more...
This initiative was organized by Amnesty International Italy, Article 21, FNSI – National Federation of the Italian Press, CIDSE – Federation of Christian Organizations for International Volunteer Service, Un Ponte Per and UNIMED.
The exhibition was held at the Museum MAXXI and will continue to display 30 photos taken by Caesar until October 9th.
Stephen Rapp, who served as US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice from 2009 to 2015, was one the speakers at the exhibit in Rome. Also, torture victim Mazan Alhummanda, who was detained during the time Caesar was taking photos inside regime hospitals and prisons including the infamously brutal Hospital 601, was also in attendance, and recalled his time over and over for the Italian media. The exhibit gave the opportunity for Italy to hear and share the stories of the atrocities seen in Caesar's photos, and hope they will bring justice to the Syrian people and the thousands who continue to suffer inside facilities controlled by the Sryian government.
As the Obama administration scrambles for options in Syria, officials lament that the United States has no leverage over the Assad regime, Russia or Iran to persuade them to halt their ongoing atrocities, especially in Aleppo. But behind the scenes, the White House is actually working to weaken a sanctions bill lawmakers in both parties see as providing leverage against all three. Read more...
Article by Josh Rogin of the Washington Post. Published October 6, 2016
Photo: House Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) holds up a photograph of Syrian children as he speaks during a 2013 hearing on Syria. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)