Senate Committee Passes “Caesar” Legislation to Stop Assad’s Atrocities and Hold Perpetrators Accountable
H.R. 1677 Sanctions Assad and Allies to Prevent Further Atrocities Against Syrian Civilians
September 26, 2018
Washington, DC — Today, Americans for a Free Syria (AFS) hailed the passage of legislation out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to sanction the Bashar al-Assad regime and its supporters for carrying out horrific human rights abuses and war crimes against the Syrian people. Named for the Syrian photographer known as “Caesar” who smuggled out thousands of photos of civilians who were brutally tortured and killed in the bowels of Assad’s prisons, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, H.R. 1677, would impose new sanctions on Syria’s Assad regime and its supporters, encourage negotiations to end the seven-year crisis, and support investigations into the eventual prosecution of war criminals, among other provisions.
“Since the Syrian regime violently cracked down on peaceful protesters in March 2011, Bashar al-Assad and his cronies have wrecked the country and caused a global humanitarian crisis. Further, photo evidence smuggled out by Caesar confirms the Assad regime has detained, tortured and killed Syrian civilians in his horrific prisons. Assad has made Syria unsafe for all Syrians, and he must be held accountable for his actions,” said Lina Murad, President of Americans for a Free Syria. “The Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act ensures the United States takes forceful action to restrict the ability of Assad and his allies like Russia and Iran to commit further human rights abuses. We thank Chairman Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Menendez (D-NJ) for pushing this legislation forward, and we urge the full Senate to pass it soon.”
Over a two-year period, Caesar, who was conscripted by the regime to document torture and executions, smuggled out more than 50,000 photos and then fled Syria in 2013, taking with him one of the largest single caches ever demonstrating evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In July 2014, he shared his evidence with Members of Congress, which led to the legislation’s introduction.
Highlights of the legislation include:
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;
- Sells aircraft materiel for military purposes to foreign operatives of the Assad regime in pro-regime areas; or
- Supports Syria’s construction or energy industry.
And it includes new sanctions on any foreign person who acts as a military contractor or para-military force on behalf of the Assad regime, Russia, or Iran in Syria.
Under the bill, the President can waive sanctions on a case-by-case basis. Also, sanctions can be suspended if the parties are engaged in meaningful negotiations and the violence against civilians has ceased. Suspension is renewable if the suspension is critical to the continuation of negotiations and attacks against civilians have ceased.
Gathering Evidence for War Crimes Investigations and Prosecutions
The bill authorizes 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.
Identifying Mechanisms for Civilian Protection
The legislation requires the Administration to review military and non-military means that the United States can maximize the protection of Syrian civilians against bombardment, sieges, and forced displacement.
Naming and Shaming of Human Rights Violators
The bill requires 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.
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.