State Department Urged to Cut Off Supply Chains Fueling Syrian Atrocities

Angolan, Russian, Italian entities among known Syrian enablers

WashingtonD.C. – As Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama Administration consider new ways to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and hasten a political transition in Syria, Human Rights First urges them to double down on efforts to choke the regime of the supplies it uses to commit atrocities.

“We recognize that there are no easy solutions to this complex crisis,” wrote Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino in a letter to Secretary Kerry. “We write to urge that, as you develop your strategy, you consider an innovative and non-violent approach that has the potential to strengthen atrocity prevention across the globe: disrupting the deadly supply chains that fuel mass atrocities. Cutting off the critical resources on which the Assad regime relies will help to stem the bloodshed, choke the regime, and increase the pressure on Assad to leave.”

Human Rights First has identified a number of key actors currently providing Syria with access to resources such as weapons, ammunition, fuel and the use of international financial markets. The organization notes that each of these enablers is essential for the commission of atrocities in Syria that have claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people.

“In each of these supply chains there are opportunities for potential interdiction by the U.S. government and the State Department in particular,” Massimino observed. “For example, in June 2012, the U.S. government worked successfully in coordination with European allies to disrupt a shipment of repaired attack helicopters destined from Russia to Syria by calling on the ship’s U.K.-based insurer to withdraw insurance coverage.”

In the coming months, Human Rights First urges the administration to use its existing authority to take action directly against those who provide resources to the Assad regime. Specifically, it calls on the administration to:

  • Identify and track atrocity enabling networks. The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement has deep expertise in tracking, disrupting and holding accountable networks and actors involved in drug trafficking and other forms of organized crimes. This expertise should be applied to track and disrupt atrocity enablers as well.
  • Pressure countries providing material support to the Assad regime and coordinate action with foreign allies to interdict these resources.  Countries that provide resources to the Syrian regime or allow those transfers to pass through their jurisdiction actively undermine the effectiveness of U.S. and other sanctions on the Syrian regime. U.S. diplomatic staff should use every relevant opportunity – including bilateral meetings, multilateral forums and summits – to pressure these countries to cease such activity immediately. For example, it should raise questions about Angola’s contract with Syria to provide diesel fuel that enables the Assad regime to keep its heavy weapons and tanks operational. Similarly, it should press Iraq to be more vigilant in their inspection and blocking of Iranian weapons and supplies transfers that cross through their borders and into Syria.
  • Exercise existing sanctions authority against the Assad regime and entities providing material resources that enable atrocities.Russian arms dealer RosobornExport, Venezuelan state-run oil company PdVSA, Angolan oil and gas company Sonangol, Italian defense and aerospace company Finmeccanica and other entities have provided Syria with arms, diesel or equipment with military applications. These companies should be prevented from access to the U.S. marketplace if they continue to enable Syrian atrocities.

“Isolating the Assad regime from its enabling networks through direct and multilateral actions will increase pressure on the Syrians to consider a negotiated transition, the ultimate goal of your initiative,” Massimino concluded in her letter to Secretary Kerry.

For more information about ways the United States has disrupt supply chains to those regimes committing atrocities, read Human Rights First’s recently released blueprint How to Disrupt Enablers of Mass Atrocities.


Published on February 26, 2013


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