Russia Urged to Release Cargo Manifests for Syrian Arms Shipment
Washington, D.C. — Reports last week of a new Russian arms shipment carrying weapons for the Assad regime sparked outrage from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. In response to this criticism, Russian President Vladimir Putin made public remarks on Friday stating that Russia has “a good, long-standing relationship with Syria, but we do not support any side from which the threat of a civil war may emerge’ he also added that “as for supplying weapons, Russia does not provide weapons that could be used in a civil conflict.” “If the Russian authorities and the state arms exporting agency, Rosoboronexport, are serious in their claim that they are not aiding and abetting crimes against humanity in Syria and that none of their recent weapons shipments are being used in the Syrian regime’s attacks,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed, “then they should publicly release all the cargo manifests for those weapons shipments to Syria in the last 14 months.” Over the course of the 15-month crisis in Syria, human rights organizations have documented evidence of Russian weapons, including Russian-made 240mm mortars which fire F-864 high explosive bombs, being used by regime forces to commit crimes against humanity against civilian populations. While many of these heavy weapon systems may have been imported before the uprising began last March, the consistent use of these platforms require a steady flow of ammunition to keep the assaults ongoing. “The publication of weapons cargo manifests from Russia to Syria over the course of the uprising is the only real proof that Russia is not complicit in Assad’s atrocities” says Hameed “especially since the trade of ammunition and small arms, such as sniper rifles, being used to indiscriminately shoot at crowds of unarmed protestors, are not disclosed for tracking the same way the heavy weapons are.” Human Rights First urges Secretary Clinton to use international pressure to obtain disclosure of these cargo manifests from the Russian authorities and to impress on them that if Russian weapons continue to be supplied and are being used in the commission of crimes against humanity in Syria, it makes Rosboronexport and the Russian authorities enablers of these crimes. In the absence of proof verifying that ongoing Russian arms sales are not fuelling Assad’s atrocities in Syria, the U.S. Department of Treasury should also immediately designate Russian State arms broker Rosoboronexport for sanctions, and all U.S. persons and entities should cease doing business with them right away.