WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today reintroduced legislation that would 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 for the former Syrian military photographer known as “Caesar” who documented Assad’s horrific brutality, would also single out human rights violators, authorize transition assistance, and evaluate the potential for a no-fly or safe-zone over Syria.

The reintroduction of this legislation, which passed the House of Representatives in 2016, comes just after Rep. Engel and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce hosted a private meeting with Caesar to review the legislation and discuss what the United States can do to end the violence against the Syrian people.

“After six years of brutality, we have to jolt this bloody crisis out of its status quo. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act would impose new sanctions on any anyone who does business with the Assad regime—going after the money, airplanes, spare parts, oil, military supply chain, and Assad’s enablers that drive this horrific war machine,” said Rep. Engel.

He continued, “One of the most remarkable moments for me as Ranking Member was when Caesar visited our Committee, bringing with him horrific photographic evidence of the Assad regime’s campaign of violence and torture. Caesar’s return to the Committee today reinforces the urgent need for action. With this bill, we honor Caesar and all the Syrian people, and we announce that the world must not grow complacent in the face of this long, bloody conflict. This legislation will help push this brutal war to an end, bring to justice those responsible, and put the Syrian people on course for a future they choose for themselves.”

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.

Authorization of Transition Assistance

This bill authorizes transition and reconstruction assistance, such as the multilateral Syria Recovery Trust Fund.