Senate Foreign Relations Committee Should Act on Rare Bipartisan Resolution to Stop Syrian Atrocities
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First voiced strong support for a rare bipartisan resolution condemning Russia’s enabling of the atrocities in Syria. The resolution (S. Res. 494) was introduced yesterday by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) with Senators Durbin (D-IL), Ayotte (R-NH), Gillibrand (D-NY), Boxer (D-CA), Risch (R-ID), and Menendez (D-NJ). The measure finds that Russia has “enabled the Assad regime to maintain power and perpetuate mass atrocities against its own people,” and urges Russia to end all arms sales to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Human Rights First urges the Senate Foreign Relations committee to act upon this resolution as soon as possible. “Russia’s weapons transfers have continued unabated, even as Assad’s forces murder thousands of civilians in the streets of Syria. This is outrageous,” said Human Rights First’s Winny Chen. “Yesterday’s resolution sends a clear signal to Russia that the U.S. Senate won’t just stand by as the country fuels Assad’s bloody crackdown; the senators will work to isolate Russia as long as it continues to enable the slaughter of Syrian civilians.” Chen notes that Russia remains Syria’s top importer of arms, selling Assad’s regime nearly $1 billion worth of weapons in 2011. With no international arms embargo on Syria – due primarily to Russia’s and China’s vetoes at the United Nations Security Council – Russia has argued it has done nothing wrong and that its arms transfers to Syria are unrelated to the conflict, a claim Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called “patently untrue.” This week, Secretary Clinton also expressed concern about information “that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.” Human Rights First has been tracking vessels allegedly carrying Russian arms to Syria, including the Professor Katsman, which docked in the port of Tartus on May 26, a day before the al-Houla massacre in which over 100 civilians – mostly women and children – were summarily executed. HRF has not been able to verify that this ship was carrying weapons; however, Russian weapons have been discovered and documented at the site of atrocities in Syria. Human Rights First continues to call for the Obama Administration to designate for sanctions Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport for selling Damascus weapons and fueling crimes against humanity. This week, Human Rights First also called on Secretary Clinton to obtain cargo manifests for Russian arms shipments to Syria over the last 16 months to verify Russian claims that weapons they have been selling to Assad are not and cannot be used in attacks against civilians by his regime.