Congress and Administration Must Address Syrian Refugee Crisis and International Accountability for War Crimes

Press Release
September 5, 2013

Congress and Administration Must Address Syrian Refugee Crisis and International Accountability for War Crimes

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Frank Jannuzi, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) deputy executive director, issued the following statement as Congress debates authorization for the use of military force in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons:

"As Congress debates whether or not to give President Barack Obama authorization for the use of military force, Amnesty International USA urges Congress and the Obama administration to work with the international community to address the human rights issues that are fueling the Syrian conflict and exacerbating its toll on civilians.

"The use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international law and a war crime, and those responsible must be held accountable. But the attack of August 21 is one reprehensible crime among many in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Congress should push the United States to lead the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to refer the Syria situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Tragically, the humanitarian crisis in Syria seems to grow day by day. While the United States has been a strong supporter of relief, there should be additional efforts to increase support to neighboring countries where refugees are fleeing, offer resettlement and humanitarian admission programs and robustly fund the United Nations' Syria Regional Response Plans. Congress and the Obama administration should also seek ways to drive the international community, specifically the European Union and its member states, to increase their support for one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory.

"Congress and President Obama can signal the United States' abhorrence for war crimes and crimes against humanity and promote justice in Syria by reaffirming U.S. support for the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court. It is time for President Obama to clearly state his support for an International Criminal Court investigation of the human rights violations in Syria. The UNSC must be pushed to overcome its paralysis and urge all nations to halt arms shipments to the Assad regime.

"All nations should apply the Arms Trade Treaty standards to all shipment of arms to opposition groups for exports must not be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights abuses. There is a substantial risk that United States' assistance to opposition groups could be misused to commit human rights abuses. President Obama must publicly clarify what policies have been put in place to avoid making the human rights situation even worse.

"The United States should seek unfettered access for international relief organizations and United Nations agencies to do their work in Syria without any interference from the Syrian government or the armed opposition. Neighboring countries must keep their borders open at all times to anyone fleeing Syria.

"The international community should do what it can to relieve the human suffering and toll."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.