5 steps that Biden must take to show that the US is still committed to protecting human rights in Syria and pursuing justice for Syrians
18 January 2022
Dear President Biden,
One year ago when you became president, you gave us hope that human rights would be at the center of US foreign policy. But now in 2022, Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless regime continues to inflict human rights atrocities against the Syrian people, and Syrian men and women inside Syria, in the USA, and around the world have been disappointed in your administration’s response.
Civilians are still being bombed to death by the Syrian regime and Russia, even as they suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 100,000 Syrians are still arbitrarily detained or disappeared, often enduring extreme torture and gender-based violence in the regime’s detention centers. Millions remain forcibly displaced, many in dire camps, and in 2021 Assad proved once again that he will always resort to brutality if given free rein, when he subjected the city of Daraa to a starvation siege.
Nearly 11 years after it brutally crushed protesters calling for freedom and democracy, the Syrian regime is still escaping justice for crimes against humanity. Over 350,000 civilians have been killed and 7 million more fled the country, yet in the past year Arab states – including key US allies – have moved to restore ties with the Assad regime.
With each step towards the normalization of the Assad regime, the misery of the Syrian people is entrenched, and the hope of a peaceful and democratic future for Syria diminishes. Your administration’s inaction in the face of these developments will embolden more states to follow suit. Now we have a situation where many Syrian refugees around the world are being threatened with forced returns by their governments – although no part of Syria is safe to return to and Syrians face arrest, torture or even death if they lose their refugee protections.
While we applaud the Biden administration’s early action and diplomacy to secure the continuation of cross-border aid access in northwestern Syria, and its efforts to facilitate humanitarian aid, overall Syrians continue to suffer devastating human rights violations with no end in sight. Syrians cannot wait any longer. The ongoing crimes against humanity in Syria and the growing risks to millions of Syrian refugees demand concrete US action.
Here are 5 steps that your administration must take today to show that the US is still committed to protecting human rights in Syria and pursuing justice for Syrians:
- Appoint a Syria envoy tasked with pursuing a political solution consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. Call for a UN Security Council session when the US is chair in May 2022 dedicated to the human rights situation in Syria, and push for renewed commitment by member states for a sustainable resolution to the Syrian conflict.
- Ratchet up the economic and political consequences on Arab, European, and Russian financiers of the regime’s human rights violations and dissuade all countries from normalizing ties with the Assad regime.
- Protect the lives of civilians at risk across Syria. Secure the renewal and expansion of vital cross-border aid in 2022, and challenge Russia and the Syrian regime on all escalations in attacks in northwest Syria.
- Give your administration’s full backing to organizations working to document human rights abuses and mass atrocities, and push at the highest levels for accountability against the Assad regime and other human rights violators.
- Invest renewed political capital in spearheading a UNSC resolution on detainees and missing persons in Syria, to free all detainees and put an end to the systematic use of arbitrary detention, forced disappearance and torture by the Syrian regime. Support longer-term efforts for comprehensive justice for the victims of detention.
- Access Center for Human Rights
- Action For Sama
- Act For Syria
- American Coalition for Syria
- Americans for a Free Syria
- Free Syria PAC
- Kayla’s List PAC
- Multifaith Alliance for Refugees
- Syrian American Council
- Syrian Christians for Peace Education Committee USA
- Syrian Emergency Task Force
- Syria Faith Initiative
- Syrian Forum
- Caesar Families Association
- Families for Freedom
- Jana Watan
- Justice and Sustainable Development
- Lamsat Ward
- No Photo Zone
- SCP Education Committee USA
- Syrian British Council
- The Syria Campaign
- Syrian Center For Legal Studies and Research
- The Syrian Initiative to Combat Statelessness
- Syria Institute for Progress
- The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre
- The Syrian Network for Human Rights
- We Dared to Dream
- The White Helmets