Congress Must Vote YES on NDAA to Pass the Caesar Act

Defense Bill Includes Sanctions to Hold Syrian Regime, Russia and Iran Accountable for War Crimes and Atrocities

December 7, 2019

Washington, DC — Americans for a Free Syria (AFS), which advocates for human rights and democracy in Syria, today urged the House and Senate to vote YES on the compromise National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill under consideration in Congress. The NDAA includes the bipartisan Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (H.R. 31/S. 52), which 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.

“Americans across the country have urged Congress to stop the torture and killings that Syrian civilians have endured for more than eight years at the hands of the Assad regime, Russia and Iran. Caesar’s horrific photos demand a response. Likewise, Russia and Assad’s endless bombing of civilians in Idlib today demands a response,” said Ismael Basha, President of Americans for a Free Syria. “After more than three years, Congress is finally taking action to pass the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, a key tool for the U.S. government to stop atrocities and hold war criminals accountable. Now, they must finish the job. With the Caesar Act included in the NDAA, Congress must vote ‘yes’ on the overwhelmingly bipartisan sanctions bill to put an end, once and for all, to the regime’s ability to wage war on civilians.”

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.

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. 

The bill, which passed the House three times without opposition and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 20-2, is supported by the White House, the congressionally-mandated Syria Study Group and the Special Representative for Syria Engagement, Ambassador James Jeffrey, among others.

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.