Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2014, legislation establishing a Syria-specific standard of reporting and accountability for crimes against humanity. The bill would require the U.S. State Department to report to relevant congressional committees on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. This would include an account of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and violent extremist groups and other combatants involved in the conflict. The report also requires a description of U.S. government efforts to ensure accountability for human rights violations in Syria.
“For far too long the Assad regime and violent extremists in Syria have committed horrific human rights violations at the expense of millions of innocent Syrians,” said Rubio. “These brutal crimes against civilians are appalling. The perpetrators deserve to be brought to justice, and this bill is a first step towards ensuring those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable.”
“The war tactics employed in Syria by both government and opposition forces fly in the face of the rules of war. The United States cannot stand idly by and allow the gross violation of human rights in Syria to go unchallenged,” said Cardin. “This legislation sends a strong message to the international community that the United States remains firmly committed to bringing all perpetrators of international crimes in Syria to justice. Shedding light on the atrocities in Syria is critical to bringing human rights abusers to justice.”
After three years, the violence in Syria continues unabated and according to the most recent report of the United Nation's Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab republic, the conflict “has reached new levels of brutality.” UNICEF has reported that Syria is among the most dangerous places on Earth to be a child, pointing to high child casualty rates, brutalizing and traumatic violence, deteriorated access to education, and health concerns. The number of children suffering in Syria more than doubled in the third year of the conflict.
The Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2014 requires the U.S. Department of State to report on U.S. government efforts to ensure accountability for violations of internationally recognized human rights and crimes against humanity perpetrated against the people of Syria during the conflict. Specifically, the legislation:
- condemns the ongoing violence and human rights abuses by violent extremist groups and other combatants involved in the Syrian civil war;
- expresses support for the people of Syria seeking democratic change;
- urges all parties to the conflict to immediately halt indiscriminate attacks on civilians;
- calls on the President to support Syrian and International Community efforts to ensure accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict;
- calls for a UN Security Council investigation into gross violations of human rights and war crimes committed during the Syrian conflict;
- and mandates that the Secretary of State produce a report on:
- violations of internationally recognized human rights and crimes against humanity perpetrated during the civil war in Syria; and
- efforts by the State Department and USAID to ensure accountability for violations of internationally recognized human rights and crimes against humanity perpetrated against the people of Syria during the conflict.