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Home / Press Release / DoD Urged to Abandon Unlawful Contracts with Russian Enabler of Syrian Atrocity
March 01, 2013

DoD Urged to Abandon Unlawful Contracts with Russian Enabler of Syrian Atrocity

Washington, DC – Today, Human Rights First joined with Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and James Inhofe (R-OK) to call on the Department of Defense to uphold its legal responsibility to end its business relationship with Russian-state arms exporter Rosoboronexport , an enabler of the mass atrocities in Syria. Russia, through Rosoboronexport, has served as the chief arms supplier of weapons to the Bashar al-Assad regime since the beginning of the nearly two-year Syrian conflict that has left more than 70,000 dead.

Last year, Congress passed an amendment (section 1277) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13 NDAA) that expressly prohibits the use of U.S. funds to enter into any contracts or agreements with Rosoboronexport; the FY13 NDAA was enacted in January. In spite of the new law, a few members of Congress received information this week that the U.S. Army intends to enter into a new contract with Rosoboronexport to procure 20 additional helicopters for the Afghan military.

“The Army’s decision is disturbing,” said Human Rights First’s Winny Chen. “Not only would a new contract with Rosoboronexport subvert U.S. law, it would send American money overseas to fund an enabler of Syria’s atrocities and encourage Russia’s intransigence in the conflict. The bottom line is it’s at odds with U.S. interests in Syria. Secretary Kerry is in Europe now consulting with other countries, including Russia, on devising a solution to the Syrian conflict. His mission will be undermined if DOD negotiates a new helicopter purchase from Russia.”

Yesterday, the Senators issued a letter to newly-confirmed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reiterating “our opposition to any continuation of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) business relationship with Rosoboronexport” and noting that such a contract would be viewed “as direct subversion of existing law by the Department of Defense.” The Senators urged DoD to refrain from utilizing a national security waiver for the contract until a Congressionally mandated Government Accountability Office and Defense Contract Audit Agency review of the Army’s existing contract with Rosoboronexport is completed.

On Tuesday, Human Rights First sent a letter to Secretary Kerry, urging the Obama Administration to increase efforts to disrupt the supply chains on which the Syrian regime relies to commit atrocities.

For more information about what the government should do to stop the enablers of mass atrocities, read Human Rights First’s recent release blueprint How to Disrupt Enablers of Mass Atrocities. To speak with Chen or for more information about today’s letter, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.