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US approves Caesar Act to choke Syrian government and support human rights organizations morally

Editing: Mohamad Alaa |
TranslationEditor: Farah Nassif |
Translation: Glory Jabr

Turkey - SMART

The United States House of Representatives approved the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act to sanction the Syrian government and its supporters. The act was named after the photographer who leaked tens of thousands of photos of prisoners who were tortured to death in Syrian government prisons. Opposition politicians considered the Caesar Act to be a choke on the Syrian government, while human rights activists considered it as moral support for them.

The Caesar Act allows the US Secretary of State to support non-governmental human rights organizations that collect evidence and documents of war crimes and crimes against humanity to prosecute perpetrators. The act also prevents the arrest of any employees of these organizations unless they are wanted for terrorism.

The Caesar Act allows the US president to sanction any individual or entity that cooperates with the Syrian government and its agencies, including intelligence agencies and the Central Bank of Syria. The act can also sanction those who sell planes and spare parts to Syrian government airlines or participate in government projects of construction, engineering, and energy.

The Caesar Act also allows the US president to waive the sanctions if necessary, after handling each case individually. The president can suspend the sanctions if negotiations to stop violence against civilians are started and will continue the suspension of sanctions if negotiations continue and civilians are protected.

Head of Syrian National Coalition: “Caesar Act reflects the seriousness we were waiting for.”

On Thursday, the head of the National Coalition for the Revolutionary Forces and the Syrian Opposition, Abdul Rahman Mustafa, said that the Caesar Act reflects the seriousness the National Coalition had been waiting for.

Mustafa also said that the Caesar Act came at a very late time as it relates to the photos leaked by Caesar in 2014. However, the Caesar Act reflects the nature of the current US position on the Syrian issue, especially with the countdown to the US forces' withdrawal from Syria.

Mustafa added that they are relying on the Caesar Act to force the Syrian government to attend serious negotiations, noting that the latter made no concessions except under real pressure.

Mustafa stated that the Caesar Act affects the Syrian government's supporters and anyone who hopes to benefit from the reconstruction topic. Mustafa also said that all parties have to realize that their interests should lie in support of the negotiating process.

High Negotiations Committee: “US Caesar Act to expand sanctions on the Syrian regime and its supporters.”

On Wednesday, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which was founded during the Riyadh II Conference in 2015, stated that the Caesar Act would stifle the Syrian government economically.

The HNC spokesman Dr. Yehia al-Aridi said that the Caesar Act would force the Syrian government's supporters to attend more “serious” negotiations than the government itself. The Syrian government was “always evading (negotiations), and received support from Russia to survive, but now everyone wants its neck because the sanctions are considerable,” according to al-Aridi.

Al-Aridi noted that the Caesar Act stifles the Syrian government economically and will affect its supporters and those who deal with it, adding that the sanctions are wide-reaching and cannot be avoided.

Al-Aridi said, "As long as the regime seeks to block a political solution to the conflict in Syria, the sanctions will be increased and extends to its supporters."

Syrian Center for Studies and Legal Research: “Caesar Act supports us only morally.”

On Thursday, the head of the Syrian Center for Studies and Legal Research, Anwar al-Bunni, said that the Caesar Act supports human rights organizations only morally.

Al-Bunni reported that political and not legal bodies issued the new Caesar Act and the European Union decision. They are also focused on economic funds and sanctions but did not reach the level of judicial decisions.

On Tuesday, the EU issued economic sanctions against 11 Syrian individuals and five institutions linked to the Syrian government, after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, Belgium.

Al-Bunni stated that the Caesar Act is only directed at the Syrian government and its supporters, and it is binding on the US administration and its allies who do not want to violate it, noting the importance of harmony between human rights and political action.

The Caesar Act is named after the photographer with the code-name Caesar, who was a member of the Syrian government military police. Caesar leaked 50,000 photos of prisoners who were tortured to death in Syrian government prisons, allowing the world to see and families to identify their loved ones. In mid-December 2015, the Human Rights Watch announced that the photos are clear evidence of the Syrian government's crimes against humanity.