WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, released the following statement Friday as the situation in Aleppo, Syria continues to deteriorate:
“The late Elie Weisel said ‘I don’t want my past to become anyone else’s future.’
“For more than 70 years now, civilized people have carried forward the charge to ‘Never Forget’. That charge has been decimated on the streets of eastern Aleppo. The shame of the international community is piercing as countless innocent Syrian men, women, and children starve and bleed and are bombed to death. No one can escape the chilling images of the 24/7 media cycle that compel us to bear witness to barrel bombs falling on Aleppo’s residents.
“According to the United Nations, around 100,000 civilians are currently in areas under the control of armed opposition groups in eastern Aleppo. There are also roughly 500 medical cases involving men, women and children who desperately need to be evacuated, especially after the regime intentionally destroyed hospitals and clinics, and targeted doctors and other health workers.
“Bashar al-Assad’s war crimes and crimes against humanity are a stain on our collective humanity and a threat to the security of the United States and its allies and partners across the globe. Assad’s regime forces are under-resourced and over-burdened; but he has been buttressed on the ground and in the air by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Assad has violated Syria’s obligations under the Convention on Chemical Weapons as confirmed by the Joint Implementation Mechanism of the UN and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; but he is protected by Russia. Assad has lost legitimacy to govern and is himself a magnet for terror and violent extremism; but he is shielded at the Security Council by Russia.
“Russia and China’s December 5 veto of a U.N. Security Council Resolution that called for a temporary humanitarian pause in Aleppo was a vote to continue the Assad regime’s campaign of bombing, starving and murdering the Syrian people into surrender. Russia and China voted to continue the atrocities, deny emergency humanitarian aid, bar hundreds of critically wounded and disabled civilians from evacuation and other grotesque violations of international humanitarian law.
“For years now, Russia has not been a partner for in ending the violence and engaging in a serious peace process. We cannot allow Russia’s participation in the current Geneva negotiations to provide them a veneer of legitimacy.
“The reality is that Russia and Iran should be held accountable for war crimes as they continue to take actions that ensure Syria will remain a terrorist attraction, with a generation of Syrians lost to malnutrition and radicalization. They and the Assad regime must be held accountable.
“I welcome the December 7 statement by the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the U.S. that announced their readiness ‘to consider additional restrictive measures against individuals and entities that act for or on behalf of the Syrian regime.’ I am ready to work with my colleagues in Congress to reinforce these restrictive measures through legislation, including passing the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act when Congress reconvenes in January.”