Congress Acts Early to Stop Assad’s Human Rights Abuses and Regain American Leverage in Syria

January 4, 2019

Washington, DC — Americans for a Free Syria (AFS) applauded the reintroduction this week of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act in both the House (H.R. 31) and Senate (S. 1).

Last Congress, the bipartisan legislation twice passed the House of Representatives and earned the support of the Trump Administration, but failed after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked its passage in December. The bill holds Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for his horrific war crimes and stifles his ability to access funds from Russia, Iran and others to continue committing human rights atrocities against the Syrian people.

“Given the further loss of U.S. leverage in Syria as our troops withdraw, sanctions remain one of the remaining tools to protect civilians and our own national security. The widely bipartisan Caesar Act shamefully failed to pass the Senate late last year, but we’re encouraged the Senate has acted early this new Congress. Still, the Senate must get it past the finish line alone or attached to a viable legislative vehicle—one that can pass both chambers and become law,” said Erica Hanichak, Government Relations Director of Americans for a Free Syria. “Failure to do so only puts Syrian lives and American security interests at further risk.”

The law’s namesake is a Syrian photographer known as “Caesar” who smuggled out more than 50,000 photos of civilians who were brutally tortured and killed in Assad’s prisons, one of the largest single evidence caches ever of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Among the Caesar Act’s provisions are sanctions on the Assad regime and anyone assisting it in carrying out atrocities; sanctions on construction sectors in Syria until the Syrian regime ceases its attacks on civilians; and leverage for negotiations through sanctions suspension and renewal authority.

Americans for a Free Syria (AFS) is a non-partisan, non-profit that advocates for human rights, the rule of law and U.S. national security interests in Syria.