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April 26, 2013

U.S., Allies Should Target Assad Enablers

Washington, D.C. – News reports today indicate that the Syrian regime claims to have cut off weapons supply chains for rebel forces. Human Rights First notes that this development underscores the need for the United States and its allies to work to cut off the complex network of actors currently enabling the atrocities committed by the Assad regime.

“While the Syrian rebels have reportedly had their weapons transfer systems cut off, Assad’s regime continues to receive material support from Russia, Iran, and at least a dozen other countries,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “The U.S. government must show leadership to stop the countries and commercial entities supplying the munitions and, supplies, and money needed to sustain their brutal campaign. Failure to act to cut off these supplies will lead to even more bloodshed and send the wrong message to those fueling Assad’s atrocities.”

Last month Human Rights First released a reportThe Enablers of the Syrian Conflict: How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria,  and an accompanying interactive website, which are the most comprehensive look to date at the Syrian regime’s complex network of third party “enablers.” These actors, either knowingly or inadvertently, support the Assad regime’s ongoing crimes and include:

  • Russia has provided military equipment, military advisors, diesel fuel, gasoil, and financial assistance
  • Iran has provided military equipment, advisors, and personnel, diesel fuel, and financial assistance
  • North Korea has provided missile technology, other arms, and technical assistance
  • Venezuela and Angola have sent, or contracted to send, diesel fuel
  • Private entities in Georgia, Lebanon, and Cyprus have reportedly sent or attempted to send diesel fuel
  • An oil trader in South Africa brokered Angola’s fuel deal with Syria
  • A trader in the UAE provided internet filtering devices made by California’s Blue Coat Systems, Inc.
  • Italy’s Finmeccanica provided radio technology and technical assistance through the Syrian unit of Intracom-Telecom, a Greek company
  • Italy’s Area SpA provided an internet surveillance system, which relied on technology from California’s NetApp Inc. and Hewlett Packard, France’s Qosmos SA, and Germany’s Ultimaco Safeware AG

Human Rights First notes that the United States has a responsibility to take the following steps as soon as possible:

  • The Treasury Department should impose sanctions that prevent U.S. entities from doing business with Assad’s enablers and that limit his ability to repatriate funds from oil exports.
  • The Commerce Department should amend the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to secure control over the delivery of information and communications technology to repressive regimes like Syria. The Department should also work with the industry to promote its best practices, to prevent such technology from enabling atrocities.
  • The Department of Defense should void its existing contracts with the enablers of atrocities in Syria and adopt a regulation to prohibit activities with state-owned enterprises, commercial entities, and individuals that enable mass atrocities.
  • Congress should pass legislation targeting the enablers of Syrian atrocities, which, for instance, could require federal contractors to certify that they are not in business with Assad’s enablers and prohibit enabling foreign financial institutions from doing business with American financial institutions.
  • The Atrocities Prevention Board should actively identify enablers and enact measures to disrupt them in early warning stages of atrocities and in ongoing atrocities.

“The United States must make it clear that enabling these crimes comes with consequences,” said Hameed.

For more information about today’s report or to speak with Hameed, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.