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Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) today on the House floor highlighted the ongoing atrocities in Syria and urged the Senate to pass the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which would sanction Assad and his backers, hold war criminals accountable, and give justice to victims of atrocities in Syria. This morning, Chairman Royce again met with Syrian defector Caesar, who exposed the regime’s horrific brutality through thousands of photos documenting the regime’s crimes.

On the House floor, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“After seven years of war, the atrocities continue in Syria and are in many ways worse than ever before. As we speak, despite a ceasefire agreed to by Russia, the Assad regime – backed by Russian war planes and Iranian militias on the ground – is engaged in a brutal assault in southern Syria. More than 45,000 civilians have fled as Russian and regime forces intensify their shelling and air raids. Yesterday alone, at least three hospitals were bombed. The United Nations has said that more Syrians were displaced in the first few months of this year than any period in the last 7 years of war.

The numbers are staggering. Over half a million Syrians have been killed, and 14 million Syrians have been displaced. Tens of thousands remain in the regime’s dungeons where the same torture that was exposed to the world in the Caesar photos continues every day. And if the regime retakes southern Syria, thousands more will be detained and meet the same fate.

This morning, I had the honor of welcoming “Caesar,” the Syrian military defector who took those photos, back to the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Four years ago, Caesar met with our Committee in his first public appearance following his defection. Caesar’s thousands of photos gave us an eye-witness account of the Assad regime’s horrific brutality.

Today Caesar provided new, chilling testimony about the Assad regime’s attacks against the Syrian people. Industrial scale torture is being committed against thousands of detainees. One picture that especially moved me showed a young woman – an architect – with her eyes gouged out. She was tortured to death simply because she had delivered food and humanitarian aid to individuals targeted by the Assad regime.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said before, there can be no real peace in Syria as long as the Assad regime remains in power. We need a strategy that moves beyond Assad to achieve a political solution that will secure a lasting peace.

The House has twice passed legislation, named after Caesar, sponsored by Ranking Member Eliot Engel and me to impose sanctions on supporters of Syria’s Assad regime – including Iran and Russia. This legislation will help cut off funding that fuels Assad’s war machine, and give our diplomats much-needed leverage in the political process.

Additionally, the Caesar bill will support the prosecution of the regime’s war criminals. This includes U.S. assistance for cases being tried around the world – many based on evidence in the Caesar file – such as one recently filed by prosecutors in Germany.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the Senate still has not acted on this critical legislation. It is time to sanction Assad and his backers, hold war criminals accountable, and give justice to victims. 

I urge my colleagues in the Senate to quickly move forward this legislation to help protect Syrian civilians.”

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