For Immediate Release: July 20, 2012
Washington, DC – Human Rights First applauds Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) for his leadership on disrupting weapons flows to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and his impassioned speech on the floor of the House this week to support an amendment introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). Rep. Ellison co-sponsored the Moran amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act ending U.S. military purchases from Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, a company that has enabled the Assad regime through regular supplies of weapons since the Syrian uprising began sixteen months ago. On Thursday, the amendment passed with a near-unanimous vote of 407 to 5.
Over 17,000 people have died in Syria, and this week the International Committee of the Red Cross declared the conflict a civil war. Over the last sixteen months, the Assad regime has carried out systematic and widespread attacks on civilians, and it has relied on Russian support – political and material – to sustain its deadly campaigns. The approval of the House amendment came hours after Russia vetoed for the third time a resolution seeking an end to the violence in Syria.
“I was shocked to discover our own government is buying Russian-made helicopters from Rosoboronexport,” Rep. Ellison said. “Put simply, our government is supporting Syria’s arms dealer, which is enabling the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown. This is wrong. It’s unacceptable. And it’s not what the United States stands for.”
Human Rights First has worked to build a bipartisan coalition in both the House and Senate to oppose the contract.
“In a time when little is done on a bipartisan basis, the overwhelming approval in the House shows clear as day that there is a right and wrong policy when it comes to Pentagon contracts with a company enabling the Assad regime,” said Human Rights First’s Winny Chen. “Representative Ellison has been a consistent and determined advocate ensuring U.S. policy is doing all it can to prevent further atrocities in Syria. Yesterday’s amendment offers a principled, concrete action that stops our government from sending U.S. tax dollars to Assad’s arms dealer. It’s a step in the right direction, and we are thrilled that the House overwhelmingly agreed.”