Washington, DC – The Coalition for a Democratic Syria (CDS) thanks Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and their colleagues in Congress for introducing the bipartisan “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016” on Tuesday. The bill codifies and expands sanctions on the Assad regime for its continued perpetration of war crimes and attacks on civilians, and further calls on the President to consider options for civilian protection.
The “Caesar” Act (H.R. 5732)—named for the military defector known for smuggling evidence of Assad war crimes out of Syria—imposes statutory sanctions on individuals identified by the Administration who are known to support the Assad regime’s ability to conduct mass torture and indiscriminate bombardment of the Syrian population. Specifically, the bill applies sanctions to any person doing business with or providing finances to the Assad regime through intelligence and security services or the Central Bank of Syria. It also targets the Assad regime’s resupply of military equipment and non-military materials needed to perpetrate its attacks on civilians—including fuel, spare parts for aircraft, and telecommunications equipment. The bill further calls on the President to identify human rights violators in Syria and consider them for additional sanctions.
To ensure the legal protection of organizations providing humanitarian assistance inside the country, the bill establishes expedited mechanisms for humanitarian exemptions. Finally, the bill calls on the executive branch to produce a feasibility assessment for civilian protection measures, including no fly zones and safe zones, in Syria.
“The Assad regime’s most violent human rights offenders have lived too long in impunity,” said Mouaz Moustafa, Executive Director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force and Political Director of United for a Free Syria. “These sanctions will not only impact their ability to continue their chilling campaign of dehumanization but will demonstrate that there are real consequences for their crimes.”
The “Caesar” Act cleared markup in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, and is cosponsored by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Luke Messer (R-IN), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), and Don Beyer (D-VA). It next moves to the House floor for consideration.
The namesake of the bill, Caesar, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July 2014, a year after he escaped Syria with over 55,000 photos documenting the regime’s systematic torture and machine of death. The evidence he collected has been exhibited not only in the U.S. Congress, but also by the United Nations and European Parliament, as well as in the parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada.