DOD Urged to Cut Ties with Russian Enabler of Syrian Atrocities
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today joined with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Kay Granger (R-TX) to call on the Department of Defense to uphold its legal responsibility to end its business relationship with Russian-state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, an enabler of the mass atrocities in Syria. Russia, through Rosoboronexport, has served as the chief arms supplier of weapons to the Bashar al-Assad regime since the beginning of the two-year Syrian conflict that has left more than 70,000 dead.
Last year, Congress passed an amendment (Section 1277) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) that expressly prohibits the use of U.S. funds to enter into any contracts or agreements with Rosoboronexport; the NDAA was enacted in January. In spite of the new law, members of Congress received information that the U.S. Army intends to enter into a new contract with Rosoboronexport to procure 20 additional helicopters for the Afghan military.
“The Army doesn’t seem to get the message,” said Human Rights First’s Winny Chen. “Congress made its intent clear when it overwhelmingly passed the NDAA provision last year prohibiting business with Assad’s primary arms supplier: the United States shouldn’t do business with enablers of mass atrocities. It is disappointing that Congress has to press the Department of Defense to comply with the law.”
Yesterday, a bipartisan group of 10 Members of Congress issued a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reiterating their opposition to “any continuation of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) business relationship with Rosoboronexport.” They noted that such a contract would be viewed “as direct subversion of existing law.” The Members requested DOD prepare a detailed briefing focusing on what steps the Department has taken to ensure compliance with Section 1277 of the NDAA and “what steps [it is] taking to ensure that it does not support – financially or otherwise – enablers of mass atrocities.”
Last week, Human Rights First released a report, The Enablers of the Syrian Conflict: How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria, naming Russia as an enabler of the Assad regime and detailing the nation’s role in providing military equipment, military advisers, diesel fuel, gas, oil, and financial assistance to Syria. The report and the interactive website that accompanies it is the most comprehensive look to date at the Syrian regime’s complex network of third party “enablers.”