For Immediate Release: March 23, 2012
Washington, DC – As the situation in Syria grows increasingly dire by the day, Human Rights First is urging the United States to redouble its efforts as part of The Friends of Syria Group to secure an international arms embargo that would limit the flow of weapons to all sides, a step that would support the ceasefire outlined in Joint UN-Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan’s plan. The group notes that this should include the United States discontinuing its own business with companies arming the Syrian regime, including the Russian-based arms dealer Rosoboronexport.
“In the face of Russia’s previous vetoes in the Security Council for such an arms embargo one thing remains clear, their state run arms company Rosoboronexport is the most significant enabler of Assad’s brutal crackdown. They have supplied him with the firepower and heavy weaponry needed to flatten cities and slaughter civilians,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “The U.S. should discontinue its own dealings with Rosoboronexport. The Treasury Department should also take immediate action to designate sanctions for Rosoboronexport and other companies providing material support for the commission of atrocities in Syria.”
While weapons pour into the regime unabated, today’s news reports from Syria indicate that opposition groups are running low on ammunition and are struggling to sustain themselves against Assad’s offensive attacks that have killed at least 8,000 people. The death toll rises each day.
Recognizing the egregious role that Russia arms dealers play in the Syrian crisis, last week, a bi-partisan group of 17 U.S. Senators led by Senator Cornyn (R-TX) wrote the Department of Defense to seeking an explanation for why the U.S. Army continues to provide business to Rosoboronexport. They echoed concerns that if the U.S. Government is to be a leader in bringing about a diplomatic resolution to the Syrian crisis, it must ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not funding companies enabling the very atrocities it has so fervently condemned.
In addition to calling for the Department of Defense to cease all purchases from Rosoboronexport, Human Rights First is calling for the Russian arms dealer and other companies providing material support for the commission of atrocities in Syria to be immediately designated for sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department. It notes that their executives should be subjected to travel bans and asset freezes.
“Russia’s support for the Security Council statement this week is a small step forward, but a ceasefire will not be possible unless Russia immediately stops supplying the Syrian regime with weapons and voices support for an end the Syrian regime’s violent, year-long crackdown. The U.S. must make clear that it will not be in the business of buying goods from those that supply arms to carry out atrocities,” Hameed concluded.