U.S. Government Must Do More to Stop Arms Flows to Syria
Washington, D.C. –In the wake of a reported massacre in Hama province where at least 78 people– including women and children – were murdered, Human Rights First is calling on the Obama administration to take immediate steps that could stem the violence in Syria. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned the ongoing crackdown in Syria, noting that the administration is “disgusted by what we see happening” and stating that President Bashar Assad must go. Separately, on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called on countries that have not yet imposed sanctions on Syria to do so and urged more coordination of national sanctions “These words are welcome, but they have to be accompanied by immediate steps that make clear that the U.S. commitment to peace in Syria goes beyond rhetoric,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “Weapons from the Russian-based arms dealer Rosoboronexport continue to flow to Syria. The State and Treasury Departments have untapped tools at their disposal to stop these deliveries and they should use them.” Just last week, reports 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. This week’s condemnations from the administration echoed those concerns, but did not outline specific steps the United States will take to address the crisis in Syria. As a first step in response to President Putin’s assertion that Russian weapons sent to Syria cannot be used for civilian attacks, Human Rights First is calling on 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. Hameed also noted that since January, Human Rights First has urged Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to use his Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC) authority to re-designate Rosoboronexport for U.S. sanctions based on their role in providing material support to the Syrian regime for the commission of human rights violations and mass atrocities. Since 2010, OFAC has sanctioned 20 Syrian citizens as well as the Syrian government. Last year, the Treasury Department took action with Liberian authorities to disrupt a shipment of oil from Syria to Iran. The Department traced the Mire –a Greek owned Eurotankers Inc. vessel – to its registration in Liberia and cancelled its American insurance, in an effort to halt the shipment. This action was intended to help maintain the integrity of the U.S. oil embargo imposed on the Assad regime and to ensure U.S. entities were not engaged in business that would contravene these sanctions. “Treasury should designate Rosoboronexport for sanctions and investigate whether similar tactics can also be used to disrupt shipments of Russian arms to Syria, where attacks have left more than 13,000 dead, most of whom were peaceful demonstrators and unarmed civilians,” Hameed observed.