For Immediate Release: May 6, 2013
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First urges Secretary of State John Kerry to use his trip to Russia this week to press the Russians to stop enabling atrocities in Syria. The trip – set against the backdrop of expanded violence within Syria and beyond its borders, a growing refugee crisis, as well as claims that Bashar Assad’s regime and the opposition have used chemical weapons– marks Kerry’s first opportunity to raise the issue in Moscow.
“Secretary Kerry should make clear that the United States stands ready to work with Russia to bring an end to the crisis and protect the rights of all people in a post-Assad Syria, interests the two governments share. But to do so, Russia should end its support for Assad, while it works constructively with the United States and other governments to find a peaceful solution to the conflict,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke.
Russia remains the regime’s biggest enabler, providing ammunition, technical assistance and access to finance, all of which are used to perpetuate Assad’s atrocities In March, Human Rights First released a report, The Enablers of the Syrian Conflict: How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria, naming Russia as an enabler of the Assad regime and detailing the nation’s role in providing military equipment, military advisers, diesel fuel, gas, oil, and financial assistance to Syria. The report and the interactive website that accompanies it is the most comprehensive look to date at the Syrian regime’s complex network of third party “enablers.”
Beyond diplomatic efforts in Russia, Human Rights First urges the Obama Administration to use its existing authority to take action directly against those who provide resources to the Assad regime. Specifically, it calls on the administration to:
- Identify and track atrocity enabling networks. The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement has deep expertise in tracking, disrupting and holding accountable networks and actors involved in drug trafficking and other forms of organized crimes. This expertise should be applied to track and disrupt atrocity enablers as well.
- Pressure countries providing material support to the Assad regime and coordinate action with foreign allies to interdict these resources. Countries that provide resources to the Syrian regime or allow those transfers to pass through their jurisdiction actively undermine the effectiveness of U.S. and other sanctions on the Syrian regime. U.S. diplomatic staff should use every relevant opportunity – including bilateral meetings, multilateral forums and summits – to pressure these countries to cease such activity immediately. For example, it should raise questions about Angola’s contract with Syria to provide diesel fuel that enables the Assad regime to keep its heavy weapons and tanks operational. Similarly, it should press Iraq to be more vigilant in their inspection and blocking of Iranian weapons and supplies transfers that cross through their borders and into Syria.
- Exercise existing sanctions authority against the Assad regime and entities providing material resources that enable atrocities. Russian arms dealer RosobornExport, Venezuelan state-run oil company PdVSA, Angolan oil and gas company Sonangol, Italian defense and aerospace company Finmeccanica and other entities have provided Syria with arms, diesel or equipment with military applications. These companies should be prevented from access to the U.S. marketplace unless they stop enabling Syrian atrocities.
“Isolating the Assad regime from its enabling networks through direct and multilateral actions will increase pressure on the regime to consider a negotiated transition,” Stahnke concluded. “Secretary Kerry’s trip to Russia offers the U.S. an opportunity to take an important step toward that end.”
For more information or to speak with Stahnke, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at email@example.com or 202-370-3323.