WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed approval by the Committee of his legislation to impose new sanctions on Syria’s Assad regime and its supporters, encourage negotiations to end the six-year old crisis, and prompt investigations into the eventual prosecution of war criminals. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, named after the former Syrian military photographer known as “Caesar” who documented Assad’s horrific brutality, would also single out human rights violators and evaluate the potential of a no-fly or safe-zone over Syria. At a markup this morning, the Committee advanced the legislation, which passed the House of Representatives in 2016.

“The United States needs a clear, coherent strategy to address the six-year-old crisis raging in Syria. We need to push for a political solution that ends the Assad regime’s campaign of carnage, removes Assad from power, and helps the Syrian people rebuild and chart the course for the future of their country. That’s no small task, especially after so much time, after so much senseless death. Each time we’ve seen the Assad regime on the ropes, they get another lifeline, often from their most devoted enablers: Russia and Iran,” said Rep. Engel at this morning’s markup.

Representative Engel continued, “Part of dialing up the pressure on Assad—part of pushing for that solution—means cutting off those lifelines. That’s what my legislation aims to do. This sanctions bill would crack down on anybody who does business with the Assad regime. We want to go after the money flowing to Assad. We want to go after the actual hardware that’s driving his ability to murder the Syrian people: from the airplanes and weapons that spell doom for innocent civilians, to the oil and spare parts that keep that machinery running. If you’re taking the side of the Butcher in Damascus over the Syrian people, you’re going to get caught up in these sanctions.”

The Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2017 is named in honor of the former Syrian military photographer “Caesar” who risked his life to show members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Assad’s torture of Syrian civilians. This bill would impose new sanctions on human rights abuses, encourage negotiations, and authorize the State Department to support entities that are collecting and preserving the chain of evidence for eventual prosecution of those committing war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria. This legislation also leaves flexibility for the Administration so that sanctions can be waived on a case-by-case basis to keep negotiations moving along.

A version of this bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives last year.

In Depth: The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act

New Sanctions on Syria

The bill would require the President to impose 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;

• Provides aircraft or spare parts for aircraft to Syria’s airlines (including financing);

• Does business with transportation or telecom sectors controlled by the Syrian government; or

• Supports Syria’s energy industry.

Encouraging Negotiations

Under the bill, the President could waive sanctions on a case-by-case basis.  Also, sanctions could be suspended if the parties are engaged in meaningful negotiations and the violence against civilians has ceased.  Suspension would be 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 would authorize 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. 

Name and Shame of Human Rights Violators  

The bill would require 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.

Report on Monitoring and Evaluating Cross-border Assistance to Syria

In light of recent press reports about the abuse of cross-border assistance, this legislation would strengthen oversight on the monitoring and evaluation of such assistance.

Evaluation of a Potential No-Fly Zone

The bill would require the President to submit a report on the potential effectiveness, risks, and operational requirements of the establishment and maintenance of a no-fly zone or a safe zone over part or all of Syria.