WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued this statement following committee passage of the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2015. The legislation authored by Senator Cardin would establish a Syria-specific standard of reporting and accountability for crimes against humanity. Since 2011, at the start of the Syrian conflict, Senator Cardin has been pressing to hold President Bashar al-Assad and others involved in human rights abuses and war crimes to be held accountable for their actions.
The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
“The atrocities committed by the Assad regime and violent extremist groups against Syrian civilians are brutally shocking and absolutely intolerable,” said Senator Cardin. “Any party responsible for these crimes must be brought to justice for the abuses committed in defiance of international law. This legislation establishes a necessary Syria-specific standard of reporting for crimes against humanity to ensure that one day soon, justice for innocent Syrians will prevail.”
The Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act establishes a standard of reporting and accountability for crimes against humanity in Syria. The bill requires the Secretary of State to submit a report to relevant Congressional Committees on war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria no later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of the Act and 180 days after the cessation of violence in Syria.
The Report must contain a description of violations of internationally recognized human rights, war crimes, and crimes against humanity perpetrated during the civil war in Syria, including:
- Incidents that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the
regime of President Bashar al-Assad and all forces fighting on its behalf;
- Incidents that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by violent extremist groups, anti-government forces, and other parties to the conflict;
- Incidents that may violate the principle of medical neutrality; and
- Where possible, a description of the conventional and unconventional weapons used for such crimes and, the origins of the weapons.
In addition to documenting violations of internationally recognized human rights, this bill would also require the Secretary to report on efforts by the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development to ensure accountability for these violations.
March 15th marked the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Since this brutal war began, more than 3.8 million Syrians have fled Syria, 7.6 million have been displaced inside Syria, and 12.2 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance.