Syria’s Shaky Ceasefire Not Enough to Protect Civilians
Washington, D.C. – As the world waits to see if the delicate ceasefire in Syria holds, Human Rights First is urging Friend of Syria countries and Syrian allies like Russia and Iran to call on President Assad to maintain the agreement as peaceful protestors are expected to take to the streets. The organization is also calling on Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport to immediately stop its sale and deliver of weapons to Syria, noting that ceasefire is not remedy enough to end the atrocities there. “A critical way to stop the attacks in Syria is to stop the flows weapons that are used to commit these atrocities,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “Russia’s actions will be critical to Bashar-al-Assad’s calculations and next steps. Just as Russia’s support for the ceasefire likely contributed to Assad’s decision to make progress toward the April 12 deadline, stopping the flow of arms to Syria will send a clear signal that they will no longer enable the violence against civilians. As a member of the United Nations with influence in Syria, Russia should lead the call for peace. The United States and others should actively encourage Russia to take up this torch.” Over 9,000 Syrians have reportedly been killed in the attacks by Assad’s military, and credible accounts of atrocities – mass executions, torture, indiscriminate shelling and sniper fire – have streamed out of Homs, with today being the first time in months that offensive attacks by the Syrian forces are reported to have ebbed. Human Rights First’s research has shown that Russia sold Syria $1 billion worth of arms in 2011 alone, and despite Russian weapons being documented at the site of atrocities, the arms sales have continued unabated throughout Assad’s ongoing crackdown. Disturbingly, this same Russian company also entered into a contract valued at nearly $1 billion with the U.S. Department of Defense last year after the popular uprising in Syria started. “Russia should stop selling weapons to Syria. Until it does, the United States should stop doing business with Rosobornexport. It’s that simple,” Hameed stated. “The United States should not be buying weapons from a supplier that is enabling atrocities.” Hameed noted that the current ceasefire is a step in the right direction, but that backtracking is likely if governments fail to persuade the Assad regime to maintain it. The agreement’s biggest test will likely come tomorrow as Syrians plan to take to the street in peaceful protest. For more information on the crisis in Syria, please visit Human Rights First’s Syria Webpage.