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Senate Resolution Aims to Undermine Syrian Regime, Urge Obama to Act

2:26 PM, May 12, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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A bipartisan group of senators joined together yesterday to discuss a proposed Senate resolution on Syria, which would condemn the rogue regime and urge the Obama administration to act decisively. The strongly worded resolution "expresses solidarity and support for the people of Syria as they seek to exercise universal rights and pursue peaceful democratic change." This wording, and other such lines in the resolution, would hopefully undermine the Syrian regime, which is led by Bashar al-Assad and killing protesters on the Syrian streets. 

Additionally, the resolution "strongly condemns and deplores the human rights abuses of the Syrian government, including the use of arbitrary and lethal violence and deployment of military forces against peaceful demonstrators," and "strongly condemns and deplores the Syrian government’s extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary and mass arrests against Syrian civilians."

In regard to action that the senators think the Obama administration should take, the resolution "urges the Obama Administration to act swiftly to expand the list of sanctioned persons to include all individuals responsible for gross human rights abuses in Syria, including Bashar al-Assad," and "urges President Obama to speak out directly, and personally, to the Syrian people about the alarming situation in their country."

The senators present at yesterday's press conference include Marco Rubio, Joe Lieberman, Ben Cardin, and John McCain.

Here's the full text of the Senate resolution on Syria:

Resolution Expressing Support for Peaceful Demonstrations and Universal Freedoms in Syria and Condemning the Human Rights Violations by the Assad Regime

Whereas in March 2011, large-scale peaceful demonstrations began to take place in Syria;

Whereas the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded to protests by launching a violent crackdown, committing human rights abuses and violating its international obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

Whereas demonstrations have now spread to more than a dozen towns and cities across all parts of Syria;

Whereas demonstrators initially demanded political reform, but under violent attack by the Syrian government, have increasingly demanded a change in the Syrian regime;

Whereas Insan, a respected international non-governmental organization, has documented more than 600 deaths since demonstrations began in Syria, and reported that “arbitrary detained and enforceable disappearance in the country easily exceeds 8,000 people”;

Whereas the Syrian government has deployed tanks and snipers against civilian population centers, including the cities of Daraa and Baniyas, and the Damascus suburbs of Douma, Harasta, Saqba and Zabadani;

Whereas the Syrian government has cut off access by civilian population centers to food, water, electricity, mobile and land lines, Internet, and medical services;

Whereas several respected international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, have documented a nationwide campaign of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances of activists, protesters, and their family members, by the Syrian government;

Whereas the International Crisis Group, an independent international non-governmental organization, reported on May 3, 2011 that there is “ongoing, credible evidence” in Syria of “abundant instances of excessive and indiscriminate state violence… including arbitrary arrests, torture and firing into peaceful crowds”;

Whereas the International Crisis Group has also reported a “determined and cynical attempt to exploit and exacerbate” sectarian tensions by the Syrian government;

Whereas despite sectarian provocations by the Syrian government, demonstrations have maintained a message of national unity and solidarity;

Whereas on April 15, 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, stated that that live ammunition has been used by the Syrian regime against demonstrators “in clear violation of international law";

Whereas international organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have documented evidence that peaceful protestors detained by Syrian security forces are being subjected to torture—including with electro-shock devices, cables, sticks, and whips—and are being held in overcrowded cells, deprived of sleep, food, and water for days at a time;

Whereas international non-governmental organizations, including the International Committee on the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch, have reported that Syrian security forces have prevented injured protesters from accessing hospitals and have denied medical personnel and humanitarian relief organizations access to those in need of medical attention;

Whereas the Obama administration has accused the Iranian government of providing material support to assist the Syrian government in its efforts to suppress peaceful protestors, including through the transfer of equipment to help security forces crack down on protests and curtail and monitor protesters' use of the Internet, cell phones, and text-messaging;

Whereas the White House has repeatedly condemned the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown, including on May 6, 2011, when the White House spokesperson stated that Syria’s flagrant human rights abuses warrant a “strong international response” and that, unless they come to an end immediately, the United States, together with international partners, would “take additional steps to make clear our strong opposition to the Syrian government treatment of its people”;

Whereas the U.S. Department of State has repeatedly condemned the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown, including on May 6, 2011, when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the Syrian government’s continued use of force and intimidation against peaceful protestors and pledged to “hold to account senior Syrian officials and others responsible for the reprehensible human rights abuses”;

Whereas on April 29, 2011, President Obama issued an Executive Order authorizing targeted sanctions against individuals and organizations responsible for the human rights abuses in Syria;

Whereas the Obama Administration on April 29, 2011, designated three individuals pursuant to the Executive Order issued that same day: Mahir al-Assad, the brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and brigade commander in the Syrian Army’s 4th Armored Division; Atif Najib, the head of the Political Security Directorate (PSD) for Daraa Province during March 2011 and a cousin of Bashar al-Assad; and Ali Mamluk, director of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID);

Whereas on May 6, 2011, envoys of the European Union’s 27 nations agreed to impose sanctions on the Syrian government for the human rights abuses it is perpetrating, including asset freezes and visa bans on 13 members of the Syrian government and an arms embargo on the country;

Whereas on April 29, 2011 the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution S-16/1 which condemns the Syrian regime for its human rights abuses and establishes a mandate for an international inquiry led by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Syria “with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability”;

Whereas the Syrian government, prior to March 2011, had a well-documented track record of human rights abuses against its own citizens and violations of international agreements and international law;

Whereas in February 1982, the Syrian army, under the orders of then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, killed at least 10,000 civilians in the city of Hama in an effort to quell an uprising there;

Whereas according to the United States Department of State's most recent Human Rights Country Report, published on April 8, 2011, the Syrian government commits unlawful killings against civilians; politically motivated arrests, detentions, and disappearances are ongoing; Syria’s judiciary system is not independent; torture and physical abuse are widespread in Syrian prisons where detainees lack access to food, proper clothing, and medical treatment; and the Assad regime has severely and systematically restricted basic freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion;

Whereas the U.S. Department of State has designated Syria since 1979 as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” and according to the U.S. State Department’s most recent “Country Reports on Terrorism,” published in August 2010, the Syrian government provides “political and material support to Hizballah in Lebanon and allowed Iran to resupply this organization with weapons”;

Whereas the Syrian government’s transfer of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006), which established an arms embargo requiring all states to prevent the supply of arms and weapons to militias and terrorists in Lebanon;

Whereas the Government of Syria has violated the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon in contravention of United Nations Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 425 (1978), Resolution 520 (1982), and Resolution 1701 (2006);

Whereas Syria, as a party to the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, is legally bound to declare all its nuclear activity to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to place such activity under the monitoring of the IAEA;

Whereas the IAEA issued a report on February 25, 2011 criticizing Syria’s implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement, concluding that “Syria has not cooperated with the Agency since June 2008” in connection with the Agency’s investigation of the Dair Alzour site and three other locations” and warning that “the Agency has not been able to make progress towards resolving the outstanding issues related to those sites”;

Whereas it has been widely reported that the Syrian government was developing a covert nuclear program, in violation of its international obligations under the NPT, until that site was bombed by Israel in September 2007;

Whereas on December 12, 2003, the Congress passed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-175) in order to, among other purposes, hold Syria accountable for its actions and as expression of support consistent with these aims:

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the United States Senate:

(1) expresses solidarity and support for the people of Syria as they seek to exercise universal rights and pursue peaceful democratic change; 

(2) strongly condemns and deplores the human rights abuses of the Syrian government, including the use of arbitrary and lethal violence and deployment of military forces against peaceful demonstrators;

 

(3) strongly condemns and deplores the Syrian government’s extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary and mass arrests against Syrian civilians;

(4) strongly condemns and deplores the deliberate cut-off of water, electricity, food, telecommunications, and other basic services to civilian population centers in Syria;

(5) strongly condemns the Iranian government for assisting the Syrian government in its campaign of violence and repression against the Syrian people.

(6) warns that international crimes are being committed by the Syrian government against its people, for which the responsible officials must be held accountable;

(7) finds that the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad, through its campaign of violence and gross human rights abuses, has lost the legitimacy to lead Syria and expresses support for the Syrian people to determine their future for themselves;

(8) commends President Obama for authorizing targeted sanctions on human rights abuses in Syria—including U.S. visa bans and asset freezes—and using that authority to designate three individuals;

(9) urges the Obama Administration to act swiftly to expand the list of sanctioned persons to include all individuals responsible for gross human rights abuses in Syria, including Bashar al-Assad;

(10) urges President Obama to speak out directly, and personally, to the Syrian people about the alarming situation in their country;

(11) urges the Obama Administration to work, in conjunction with international partners, to ensure access of humanitarian relief organizations, medical workers, and international media to affected areas of Syria, and to impose severe consequences on the Syrian government and its leaders if access by these organizations continues to be impeded;

(12) urges the Obama Administration to work with the European Union, the government of Turkey, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and other allies and partners to bring an end to human rights abuses in Syria, hold the perpetrators accountable, and support the aspirations of the Syrian people;

(13) urges the referral of the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC);

(14) urges the Obama Administration to work with our allies and partners at the United Nations Security Council to take such action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Syria and hold human rights abusers in Syria accountable;

(15) urges the United Nations Human Rights Council –

A. to swiftly implement United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution S-16/1 and to ensure that the international investigation into Syrian violations of international human rights law called for in the resolution is undertaken immediately;

B. reinforce the crucial need for the United Nations General Assembly to reject Syria’s candidacy for membership on the Human Rights Council and terminate the consideration of Syria’s candidacy;

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