With American forces bombing a Syrian air field as civil war continues to plague that nation, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, has been focusing on Syrian issues in recent days.
Rubio has been a longtime advocate of taking a stronger stance against the Assad government and has repeatedly called for regime change. On Friday, Rubio teamed up with a host of senators--including Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., to bring out the “Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act” which mandates the State Department report on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed during the Syrian civil war. The proposal would also “authorize assistance for investigations and other credible transitional justice efforts, including a potential hybrid tribunal, to hold Assad and his regime accountable for their heinous acts.” Other supporters in the Senate include Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, Democrats U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rubio, the chairman of the Senate Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues Subcommittee, made his case for why the bill was needed.
“For more than six years, Bashar al-Assad has been committing horrific war crimes against the Syrian people, including women and children,” Rubio said. “This bill is a first step towards ensuring accountability for the human rights violations inflicted against innocent civilians in Syria. We must bring to justice those responsible for the Syrian regime’s barbaric attacks and repeated use of chemical weapons.
“The United States must lead the international community in holding Assad accountable for his war crimes and his brutal victimization of the Syrian people over the last six years,” said Cardin. “This bill will bolster America’s commitment to ensuring that justice is ultimately served for the impunity with which Assad and his regime have committed crimes against humanity, most recently evidenced by this week’s barbaric use of chemical weapons against innocent men, women and children.”
Rubio doubled down on his opposition of the Assad regime on Friday when he met with Dr. Riad Hijab who has been representing the Syrian opposition around the globe. Currently in charge of the Supreme Negotiations Committee, Hijab had served Assad as agriculture minister in 2011-2012 before serving as his prime minister in the summer of 2012. Hijab defected in 2012.
"Following President Trump’s decisive response to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s horrific chemical weapons attack this week, I met with Dr. Riad Hijab, the chief international negotiator for the Syrian opposition, to discuss ways to end the six-year crisis in Syria,” Rubio said after the meeting. “The Assad regime, backed by Iran and Russia, has repeatedly targeted civilians—including women and children—with conventional arms and chemical weapons, and committed other war crimes and atrocities. The world’s failure to stop Assad has created a dangerous vacuum in Syria that Iran, Russia, and the Islamic State and other terrorist groups have filled. Last night’s action by President Trump has created an opportunity for the United States and other responsible nations to work with the Syrian people to forge a comprehensive strategy to hasten the emergence of a post-Assad Syria, and ensuring the country is no longer a safe haven for terrorists. I look forward to continue working with Dr. Hijab in support of a free Syria.”