President Trump Signs Caesar Act into Law to Stop Assad’s Atrocities

Landmark Sanctions Legislation to Squeeze Funding for Regime, Russian and Iranian Attacks on Civilians

December 20, 2019

Washington, DC — Americans for a Free Syria (AFS), which advocates for human rights and democracy in Syria, celebrated the passage into law today of landmark legislation to stop relentless attacks on Syrian civilians. The bipartisan Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (H.R. 31/S. 52), the culmination of a nearly-four-year long advocacy effort, holds Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for his horrific war crimes and puts sanctions on perpetrators or financiers of the regime’s atrocities, including from Iran and Russia.

“I have waited years for this day: with his signature, President Trump has taken tough action to hold the criminal Bashar Assad—responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians—accountable for his reprehensible attacks on civilians,” said Ismael Basha, President of Americans for a Free Syria. “Knowing Caesar sanctions are on the horizon, Assad and his allies have ramped up their attacks on civilians in Idlib province, bombing residential areas in Maarat al Numan and Saraqeb. These sanctions are needed more than ever. The Administration must not delay in bringing the full weight of the Caesar Act to bear on Assad and his thugs.” 

“Since the defector Caesar came to Congress in 2014 to bear witness to Assad’s brutality, lawmakers have worked tirelessly alongside their Syrian American constituents to urge two Administrations to action. By sending the Caesar Act to the President’s desk, Congress has delivered a message, loud and clear, to the Syrian people that the U.S. will push to ensure their perpetrators face economic and legal justice,” said Erica Hanichak, Government Relations Director for Americans for a Free Syria. “The President signing ‘Caesar’ opens a new chapter in U.S. Syria policy. The most crucial step comes now, in implementing it. Now that the legislation has officially been signed into law, those who would continue feeding Assad’s war machine are on notice. Once it’s taken effect, the economic weight of ‘Caesar’ will give the State Department needed leverage for talks in Geneva toward a political transition.”

AFS helped lead the effort to pass the Caesar Act, scheduling fly-ins for Americans across the country, leading more than 450 meetings with Members of Congress and staff, working directly with committee staff, and partnering with grassroots organizations and individuals to call and email their Senators and Members of Congress. Joining them in the Coalition for Democratic Syria was the Syrian American Council, Syrian Christians for Peace and the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

The law’s namesake, Syrian forensic photographer “Caesar,” smuggled out more than 50,000 photos of civilians who were brutally tortured and killed in the bowels of Assad’s prisons, one of the largest single caches ever demonstrating evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In July 2014, Caesar shared his evidence in a House hearing, which led to the legislation’s introduction in the House.

Among the Caesar Act’s provisions are sanctions on the Assad regime, its financiers and the regime’s construction and oil production sectors, to pressure the Assad regime to halt its attacks on civilians and engage in real negotiations for a political transition.

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.


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