Press Release

Key Senate Committee Passes Gillibrand-Schumer-Brown Bill to Enforce Sanctions Against Syria

Feb 2, 2012

Washington, DC – United States Senators Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Charles E. Schumer and Sherrod Brown announced today that the Senate Banking Committee passed their bill to impose sanctions against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad in the face of a violent and bloody crackdown the government has executed on opposition protestors in the country. 

The Gillibrand-Schumer-Brown bill would require the President to identify those persons in the Syrian government, and those helping them, who have violated the human rights of pro-democracy demonstrators, members of the opposition, or other Syrians, for the purposes of blocking of any financial and property transactions in the US. The sanctions bill also prohibits the sale of technology or weapons to Syria, by any company seeking to do business with the United States, that would be used for censorship or human rights abuses in the country. The  bill is expected to go to the Senate floor later this Spring, with strong potential for reaching the President’s desk before the end of the year. 

“President Assad has brutally violated the human rights of his own people while killing thousands of Syrian citizens and fostering terrorism across his borders,” said Gillibrand. “It is time for the Iranian regime’s best friend President Assad to step down. The tough sanctions I introduced to crack down on Syria’s energy sector which funds the development of nuclear weapons and supports terrorists isn’t enough. This new bill is an important step to end the bloodshed by the Syrian government and provide the Syrian people with tools needed to take back their own country.” 

“Syria continues to show it has no desire to curb the bloody crackdown that has become synonymous with the Assad’s regime,” said Schumer. “If Syria won’t willingly change its brutal approach and continues to violate the human rights of those seeking to exercise their voices, then we will do everything we can to send the strongest message possible to that nation’s leadership that this behavior is beyond the pale and not without consequence. It will also ensure that no companies that do business with the United States facilitate these atrocities.”

“Today, we’re one step closer to stemming the tide of weapons and surveillance technology flowing to a ruthless government committed to suppressing its population at all costs,” said Brown. “The Syrian people are calling for change through peaceful protest. It’s critical that we step up sanctions to support democracy in the region.” 

Since March, when protests began in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad has launched a series of crackdowns on his own people, sending tanks into rebellious cities as military forces fired on demonstrators. The United Nations currently estimates that more than 5,400 people have died since the beginning of the conflict, and estimates of the number of detainees range up to 40,000. Throughout the conflict, President Assad has clung to power through violence, defying protesters’ demands to step down. 

As violence escalates in Syria, the United States and our allies are working to pass a UN Security Council resolution condemning the escalating violence in Syria. 

The sanctions bill passed out of the Senate Banking Committee would prohibit the sale of weapons by companies seeking to do business in the United States, as well as sensitive technology, including hardware, software, telecommunications equipment, or any other technology that the president determines to be used specifically to restrict the free flow of information, monitor, or otherwise restrict the free speech of the Syrian people. The bill would also make individuals identified by the administration as engaging in human rights violations prohibited from obtaining U.S. property or conducting financial transactions with U.S. institutions.