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
Image: Syrian activists outside the court in Koblenz, Germany where last week a former Syrian regime colonel was convicted for crimes against humanity. Paul Wagner / The Syria Campaign
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: