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US Congress Takes Aim at Syrian Regime’s War Crimes

US Congress Takes Aim at Syrian Regime’s War Crimes

Tuesday, 17 December, 2019 - 18:15
The U.S. Capitol is pictured in Washington, US, November 13, 2018. (Reuters)

Congress is poised to ratchet up pressure on Syria, Russia and China while making it more difficult for the Trump administration to reduce commitments to allies from Europe to Asia.

As part of a defense policy bill, lawmakers are set to impose sanctions on Syrian regime forces responsible for atrocities committed during Syria's war and to fund war crimes investigations and prosecutions, reported The Associated Press.

The bill will also register strong congressional concern about Russia and China, bind the US to supporting Ukraine militarily and bar the Trump administration from any move to recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea. In addition, it will restrict President Donald Trump's ability to extract the US from NATO or draw down its troop presence in South Korea.

Contained in the National Defense Authorization Act is the entire text of the so-called CAESAR Syria Civilian Protection Act, which is named for the former Assad regime official who took thousands of photographs of victims of torture and other abuses and smuggled them out of the country.

The Caesar bill “applies sanctions to those who lend support to the Assad regime’s military efforts in the Syrian civil war, and grants authorities to the secretary of state to support entities collecting evidence and pursuing prosecutions against those who have committed war crimes in Syria,” the House Armed Services Committee said.

The law would give the US another means to punish Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad and his allies with sanctions. The US has already imposed sanctions on Assad and a number of his top officials, but the new authority would allow foreign companies to be targeted if they are found to be supporting repression.

The US has offered modest support for probes into potential war crimes in Syria in the past. Much of the concern was sparked by Caesar, the codename for a Syrian forensic photographer turned over the images taken between 2011 and 2013 to human rights advocates. His revelations graphically exposed the scale of the Syrian regime’s brutal crackdown.

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