WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-12) and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-05) introduced the Justice for Syrians Resolution to direct the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) to use the vote and influence of the United States to establish an international justice mechanism to finally hold Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It has been over a decade since the start of the Syrian Civil War, and victims of the numerous horrific crimes committed during the conflict are still waiting for any form of justice. In recent months, regional powers and dictators have sought to sweep Assad’s heinous crimes under the rug and welcome him back into the international arena.
Assad’s regime committed some of the worst atrocities of the 21st century during the country’s civil war that began in 2011. These include but are not limited to the use of sarin gas and other chemical weapons against civilians, the widespread use of torture, and the deliberate targeting of civilians with conventional weapons.
The international community has previously established ad hoc tribunals, special courts, and other justice mechanisms through the United Nations to bring justice in specific countries where there have been war crimes. Given the sheer number and scale of the atrocities committed during Syria’s Civil War, an international justice mechanism is clearly necessary.
“Enforcement is how we ensure this never happens again. Having international laws to protect civilians in times of war and assert certain universal human rights is all well and good, but these agreements are meaningless if they are not enforced,” said Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. “Holding war criminals like Assad and his henchmen accountable for their crimes against humanity is critical to ensuring that others don’t repeat their actions. The ongoing failure of the international community to do so in unacceptable and the U.S. must act.”
“For years, the Syrian people have suffered from a brutal civil conflict that has displaced more than half of the population. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has used sarin gas, other chemical weapons, rampant torture, and deliberately targeted civilians with conventional weapons. This dire human rights crisis was exacerbated by the devastating earthquake earlier this year,” said Congresswoman Omar.
“Millions of lives have been lost, families have been torn apart, and children have been left without parents due to the crimes of Assad, ISIS, and the foreign powers who have callously used Syria as a battleground for their proxy wars.
“Our basic humanity and international law require that we establish a justice mechanism to hold all responsible for war crimes to account—starting with Assad,” Congresswoman Omar concluded.
This bill comes after Congresswoman Tlaib introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2024 (NDAA) to require the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and Director of National Intelligence to submit any and all evidence in their possession of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and human rights abuses committed by the Assad regime and its allies since 2010 to the International Criminal Court (ICC). House Republicans regrettably blocked this amendment from consideration.
This resolution is endorsed by the Syrian American Council (SAC) and the American Coalition for Syria (ACS).
“This resolution underscores the importance of providing accountability for the innumerable war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the genocidal Assad regime against the Syrian people. The measure calls for establishing an international justice mechanism through the United Nations in a manner that cannot be vetoed by Russia and China as they have in the past. We strongly support this measure urging the Biden Administration to show leadership at the UN to establish an accountability mechanism to deliver justice to the millions of victims in Syria. Accountability is a critical element to achieving a resolution to the conflict that has spawned the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century,” said Mohammed Alaa Ghanem, Syrian human rights activist and Policy Chief of the American Coalition for Syria (ACS).
“We call on members of Congress to come together on a bipartisan basis to co-sponsor and pass this resolution. Bringing justice to the senseless atrocities committed against the Syrian people by its own government will help bring resolution to the Syrian conflict, not through the rehabilitation of war criminal Bashar al-Assad,” said Farouk Belal, President of the Syrian American Council.
A copy of the legislation is available here.