Of Note: Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria
in 2011 more than 200,000 people have been killed, as many as 85,000 of
whom were civilians. The Assad government has systematically tortured more than 10,000 Syrians in its prisons. There have been numerous instances of chemical weapons — including sarin gas, mustard gas, and chlorine gas
— being used against opposition forces, Kurdish fighters, and the Assad
government. Both the use of chemical weapons and the deliberate
targeting of civilians are considered war crimes, and torture is considered to be a crime against humanity.
Matters became even more complicated when the Russian military
began carrying out airstrikes on behalf of the Assad government against
opposition forces and ISIS. Some international law experts have
suggested that Russia could face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity for its efforts to assist the Assad regime.
The U.S. had been providing weaponry to the Syrian opposition since 2014, but is now unlikely to protect them from Russian airstrikes.
In-Depth: Sponsoring Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) criticized the conduct of both the Assad government and opposition forces in the ongoing conflict:
“The war tactics employed in Syria by both government and opposition forces fly in the face of the rules of war. We must shine a light on the atrocities that have been committed in Syria and demand accountability. Ignoring these violations sends a message to the global community that war crimes and crimes against humanity are tolerable… The United States cannot stand idly by and allow the gross violation of human rights in Syria to go unchallenged. We remain firmly committed to bringing all perpetrators of international crimes in Syria to justice.”
The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee passed this bill unanimously, and the Senate passed it with unanimous consent. Six Senators have signed onto this bill as cosponsors, and the lone Republican amongst them is presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Media:Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: "Free Syrian Army soldier walking among rubble in Aleppo" by Voice of America News: Scott Bobb reports from Aleppo, Syria - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yikVv_YAvE&feature=plcp. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons)