Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act Would Crack Down on Assad’s Supporters and Advance Negotiations

Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Michael McCaul, the Committee’s Ranking Member, today welcomed unanimous passage in the House of Representatives of legislation to impose new sanctions on Syria’s Assad regime and its supporters and encourage negotiations to end the nearly eight-year old crisis. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act is named for the former Syrian military photographer known as “Caesar” who documented Assad’s horrific brutality, passed the House during the 114th and 115th Congresses.

“Nothing can undo the horrors they have had to endure for nearly eight years. Nothing can bring back those who have been lost. But the world owes it to the living and the dead to try to bring this crisis to an end. And the role America must play is to push for a political solution that allows the Syrian people to choose their own future. That’s what American leadership looks like. That’s what sets us apart from other great powers on the world stage. We simply cannot look the other way and allow Assad, Russia, and Iran to steamroll over Syria,” said Chairman Engel on the House floor. “My bill would give the Administration greater leverage to raise the cost for Assad and crack down on his lifelines.”

Ranking Member McCaul said, “For seven years, the brutal Assad regime has carried out a merciless campaign of violence and murder with impunity. In order to secure lasting peace in the region, we need a strategy that moves beyond Assad’s debilitating stronghold to encourage negotiations and pursue a political solution to end this conflict. This legislation provides the Administration much-needed leverage to impose sanctions against Assad and his backers, punish war criminals, and cut off funding that fuels the regime’s war tactics. We must act immediately to hold Assad and his supporters accountable to deter this perpetual cycle of brutality against the innocent people of Syria. I look forward getting this vital legislation over to the White House.”

The Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019 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.

The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act 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);
  • Is involved with construction and engineering projects controlled by the Syrian government; or
  • Supports Syria’s energy industry.

The bill includes provisions to ensure that non-governmental organizations providing assistance to Syria are not inadvertently caught by sanctions, except in the case of a designated terrorist.

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 not resumed.