tv Hearing on U.S.- Syria Policy CSPAN June 12, 2022 4:32am-6:38am EDT
>> this hearing of this senate foreign relations committee will come to order . assistant secretary, we're glad to welcome you in your role and i'm glad you finally made it and most importantly we are happy that you're here . thank you for coming before us today. assistant secretary of defense, thank you for coming back to the committee as i'm sure many know the assistant secretary was our middle east expert for a while so we are glad to see her back. i have been asking a simple but important question for some time i hope this hearing will answer. what is the administrations
strategy on syria? during the last presidential election secretary lincoln road when joe biden is president we will restore us leadership on humanitarian issues. and yet with the frozen conflict in syria leading to immense humanitarian political security dilemmas the leadership from theunited states or elsewhere seems lacking . like lights in syria are resuming.embassies and damascus are reopening. when hassan landed in the united arab emirates he was given a warm welcome as any other head of state would have received. as if he had never order a barbaric bombardment of innocent syrian civilians and as if he never order chemical weapon attacks that left gasping for their lives on ventilators. this comes within weeks of new evidence of syrian atrocities coming to light. video of soldiers forcing
victims to climb down into a mass grave before massacring them. think of the message this sends two other dictators around the world who would butcher innocent civilians. you can commit war crimes in broad daylight on camera and the global community will just shrug its shoulders. this is not lost on and ran. after propping up assad with billions of dollars or with such impunity only fuels the region's aggression with her to attacks on us personnel or threatening our allies and partners in iraq and jordan not to mention fueling an active battleground on israel's border and it is not lost on pitching. no one who has followed putin's brutality in syria the past decade should be surprised that he is starving
and showing ukrainians just as he start and shelled syrians. while i have seen the administrations written strategy for serious required in the and the aa , which was skeletal from my perspective i look forward to delving a bit more in detail into the tools and us international political will to execute that strategy. i'd like to hear whether you believe un security council resolution 2255 has lived up to the path we thought it was good. because it seems the roads we need to be traveling onour crumbling . earlier this year in an attempt to free imprisoned extremists isis launched a massive jailbreak. they attacked a syrian prison with car bombs andgunmen in a battle that lasted more than a week . on top of that the assad regime and hezbollah are manufacturing addictive pills
effectively turning syria into a nautical states, trafficking the drug throughout europe and the middle east to obtain hard currency despite sections with the un mandate for cross-border humanitarian aid expiring next month there is a real question as to whether russia will support an extension. particularly as the war in ukraine has ushered in a food crisis that has hit syria and a number of its neighbors. we need to continue to prioritize our response to this dire humanitarian situation. we must continue to support partners in jordan, lebanon and turkey across europe will have absorbed the community that amounts to 6.8 million people worldwide. added to this another 6.7 million who have been displaced within syria. leaving an entire generation of syrian children growing up with dim prospects of ever returning home or the possibility of a bright
future. to close let me lay out what i see as priorities that the us and international community must continue to hold the assad regime accountable for its crimes. we need acomprehensive strategy . one that enforces fully the robust set of us sanctions and means to build leverage that will sharpen assad's choices and maintain his political isolation. this includes using such sanctions against assad's benefactors in moscow and karen and means pending a clear signal we cannot tolerate a return to business as usual with assad and his murderous regime. a strategy would lean in to aggressive un diplomacy to continue to marshal the international community in support of this leverage and reinvigorate the political process . to this and i am glad that the nda bureau has appointed and confirmed later us
secretary but there remain a number of nominees for viable positions in the middle east need to move forward including crucially for syria as usaid's assistant administrator for the middle east. the us would continue to prioritize bringing its own resources and resources of the international community to bear on serious humanitarian crisis while being judicious to focus our assistance in ways that doesn't benefit the regime . it would include how to continue to help syria's neighbors especially jordan and lebanon who have shown incredible hospitality to those fleeing assad's brutality but nonetheless are bearing a significant strain . to that end we need a full-court press to address the mandate for the last remaining border crossing for desperately needed humanitarian assistance to hold with a ready to implement strategy for pushing that assistance if and when russia uses its veto.
putin cannot be allowed to hold desperate syrians as ransom for demands of relief. that strategy should include new consideration of russia's role in syria following the invasion of ukraine and steps needed to reduce russian activities while denying around and hezbollah the ability to fill any vacuum created by russia's occupation with ukraine. it should also address turkish role in syria taking into consideration is hosting millions of refugees and its position as a launch! for humanitarian assistance. to its destructive campaigns against our curtis partners in the fight against isis including renewed threats to invade northern syria. it would further flush out steps needed to counter the danger posed by hezbollah and iranian weapons and traffic across syria and layout concrete steps to be taken to secure the release of the us citizens often times who have
been detained by the hassan regime since 2012 and 2017 respectively. it must provide a path forward that allows unfettered the military and access and war crime investigations and must provide a long-term legal strategy for ensuring that the hoarders that the has inflicted on the syrian people do not go unanswered. and it should describe how the us can help rally the weight of international pressure to pursue the political path to unfreeze this conflict. on this congress has been clear. we overwhelmingly passed the syrian civilian protection act with whose primary purpose is to sanction companies or individuals who facilitate those brutalities or that they are doing business with the syrian government or its security services providing aircraft for spare parts and i would like to see the administration use all these tools. we cannot simply allow the regime to return to business
as usual. we cannot turn our backs on the syrian people and we cannot give up supporting them as so many desperately try to work towards a free and democratic syria. america's values, its principles and its reputation on the world stage hanging in the balance. with that let me turn to senator rich, ranking member's let me put my statements in two contexts before i start. >> ..
the world had never seen atrocities to this scale since the second world war and what we are uncovering now in ukraine. the crimes are well documented in addition to caesar fire, hundreds of thousands of government documents linking crimes directly to al-assad. stephen, former u.s. ambassador for war crimes argued we have more evidence against the regime and we did against the nazis. in a previous hearing we heard directly from the regimes continued atrocities. today, who hear from another who risked his life to bring these accounts of gross human rights violations to the international community. accountability for a thought has been slow and mechanisms are few. neither syrian or the united states members of the international court and it remains a dangerously politicized body.
nations have begun to pursue accountability under their own courts, i was heartened to hear recent conviction of an official in germany involved in the torture of syrian civilians on the mass scale. this is a start but we need to do more. we must establish a more robust formalized accountability mechanism. turning to syria policy moving forward, the united states has maintained a policy of economic diplomatic isolation to force a political solution in the syrian conflict. unfortunately that policy is beginning to crumble and i remain concerned this administration is accepted the role as the conclusion. worse, i feel the administration is approving outreach to the regime. sanctions enforcement has been lacking and administration support for energy through syria to lebanon violates the caesar act. i'm deeply concerned with the administration's funding
so-called early recovery projects in regime held argus. these activities crossed the line for prohibited construction and open the door to normalization with a thought. the administration's syria policy consists of four lines of effort. the islamic state, maintain cease-fire and syria, expand humanitarian access and seek accountability for crimes. while these are, it's my concern they have been sufficient efforts expanding beyond manicuring access into the realm of reconstruction always seemed little movement seeking accountability for the regime. it's virtually vitally important the u.s. hold the line against the regime, current and future autocrats are watching actions. we cannot send a message to forget these atrocities over time and welcome assault back to the international community. i'm gravely concerned by the number of our partners who have
increased formal and informal relationships with the regime in recent years including establishment of official diplomatic outposts in pursuit of economic relationships. you 80s outreach has been particularly problematic. the normalization reconstruction is clear. any engagement with the regime, diplomatic or economic must be met with firm response using tools laid out in the caesar act. we must ensure policy doesn't entrench the regime, energizes progress under the security council resolution 2254 and the american values. i asked unanimous consent, video documenting regime war crimes and be added to the record. it is difficult to watch, it is important we put these crimes out in the light of day. to the witnesses again, thank you for being here, the chairman
and i have talked about the situation, about the problems. we have a lot of witnesses who come reiterate what we have said. we've outlined the problems with the tools, we want to hear how you use them to do what you have said is a policy in the united states. thank you for being here. >> thank you, senator. your video will be included without objection. we will start witness testimony, secretary lee and assistant secretary, your full statements will be included in the record without objection. we ask you to summarize in about five minutes or so to enter into conversation with you. your recognized. >> chairman menendez, distinguished members of the committee, for the past year the administration has led allies and partners crafting common diplomatic approach to syria pursuing concrete actions to improve lives of syrians to
protect vital national u.s. national security interest. let me be frank, after more than a decade of conflict prospects remain limited for advancing political solution worthy of syrians who demand change more than ten years ago. syrians are hungrier and more impoverished than at any time in the conflict with over 12 million food insecure. the ultimate responsibly for this tragedy rests backed by russia and iran who's brought us to the brink of ruin and remains in transient. the administration led international coordination in the face of this, we focus on bettering conditions for syrians pursuing justice for those wronged by the regimes mitigated risk with neighbors of this terrible conflict. we have the following priority defeating isis and credit increasing access to humanitarian aid keeping provincetown maintaining cease-fire, promoting accountability for the regime's atrocity. these are critical steps on the
path to advancing adjust political settlement under 2254. we continue to strongly support special envoy peterson effort and i look forward to speaking with him this week. we remain committed to working relentless and bring home american citizens wrongfully detained or held hostage to include. in terms of reducing suffering on the ground humanitarian needs are higher than ever compounded by the historic levels of drought, decades of mismanagement and corruption and the terrible effects in global food security, putin's war on ukraine. expanding humanitarian access is central to our strategy. last year he successfully negotiated a new resolution for 25852 keep order crossings opened in northwestern syria and we are deeply committed to doing the same this year. we've been committed from day one, preserving military
presence in the northeast, coalescing international support to increase stabilization funding. we press countries of origin nationals from northeast syria including foreign terrorist fighters. areas liberated from isis civilization assistance and new economic opportunities will help address growing economic insecurity and keep isis at bay. on existing cease-fire, we were deeply concerned by recent increase rhetoric from turkey about potential military moves into north syria and we've stepped up diplomatic engagement to attempt to stop that. i know in the past two years violence in syria at its lowest compared to other periods in the decade but we are working to keep it so. the administration is committed to promoting accountability and justice and enduring peace and stability and syria will not be
possible without justice for the syrian people. i mindful your panel will include testimony from ralph whistleblower known as the gravedigger. i've had the honor to meet and harrowing accounts of atrocities in syria shook me to the core. we will continue to promote accountability for his atrocities. sanctions including those under the caesar act are critical elements in that regard. we are grateful to congress adding to the bipartisan efforts to broaden our toolkit and continue to use all our tools including caesar against the regime. all of our efforts support wider security and stability to offset the effects criminal war has had on neighbors. iranian forces including irg see, has blocked friend security directly of allies and partners, most certainly israel and german. in that regard, the u.s. fully supports israel's ability to
exercise its right of self-defense. while i have outlined necessary building blocks for regional stability and prerequisites building a road to political resolution, i want to be clear on what we have not done in syria and what we will not do which is support efforts to normalize or rehabilitate, lift sanctions on regime change position opposing reconstruction and syria until there's authentic enduring progress or political solution. the single largest impediment to the goal, they must and will be held accountable. thank you very much. >> thank you, secretary. >> chairman menendez, english members of the committee, it is an honor to testify before you today particularly because u.s. policy for syria and issue have
spent significant time working on with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as a professional staff member for this committee. it is our pleasure to join her first testimony before you and the state department. dod role in syria is limited by geography and mission, the department supports the lines of effort identified and outlined by assistant secretary we put our activities on the ground are solely focused on enduring defeat of isis. to achieve this, dod as part of the global coalition to defeat isis works by, with and through that it capable partner forces in northeast syria and in the vicinity southern syria. dod remains capable of rapidly deploying forces to conduct operations in other areas of syria, exemplified by the february 22 rate resulting in the death of former isis leader.
isis remains real potent threat, the group continues to conduct attacks and maintain intent to direct, support and inspire attacks across the globe and against the homeland. in northeast syria, syrian democratic forces remain our most capable partner in the fight. the fund is an essential tool for enabling stf and other vetted partners to achieve the defeat of isis, tremendous things to congress for your continuing support and authorizing appropriate tests. we directed toward basic life support, detention facility construction, training and sustainment. military tools alone cannot achieve isis enduring defeat. the international community must do more to prevent isis from
reconstituting. number one, increasing support for stabilization and areas liberated from isis and number two, prioritize reducing isis wider population and displaced persons camp managed by sef across syria. this includes more than 10000 isis fighters and approximately 60000 displaced persons. the department is focused on supporting sef to provide for the humane secure detention of these populations working with sef to grow and professionalize guard force responsible for securing facilities. january 22 isis attack is a reminder isis still a serious threat and sees detention facilities as an area from which to reconstitute forces. countries of origin must repatriate, rehabilitate, re- integrate and where appropriate,
prosecute, there nationals residing in northeast syria. quixote support state department efforts providing adjustable support to countries willing to bring national home for the more we support efforts to work with the government to accelerate case of the repatriation effort. beyond the focus on the isis mission, i want to touch on the stress opposing risk of forces risk mission in syria. number one, iran. iran enables aligned militia and iraq and syria to execute indirect fire and unmanned aerial system attacks against u.s. and coalition forces will not hesitate to take proportionate action defense to protect service members. number two, russia. syria remains one area in the world for u.s. russian forces operate in close proximity on a
daily basis. the coalition maintains with the russian military to protect coalition forces reduce risk of inadvertent this calculation. number three, turkish military operations in northern syria, we are working to maintain the d isis mission, sure safety of the civilian operation and above all the protection of the u.s. coalition forces. large-scale incursion will undermine and jeopardize for missions and priorities, we've communicated concerns to turkey across the u.s. government. it should go without saying that iran and russia's military intervention and ongoing activity inside syria and service of the regime have enabled brutal violence and human rights abuses against the people.
quixote supports the state department whole of government strategy to end violence by focusing on concrete action to improve the lives of syrians and underlying causes of the conflict. thank you and i look forward to your sessions. >> let me ask you both, without the benefit of further details from of the strategy provided by the administration seems a continuation of what is already being done. can you provide further details on the strategy to shed light whether and how it represents course correction from earlier attempts to address the crisis? what about this is different from what's already done that's if there are no significant changes, what makes you think it will work now after 11 years of conflict?
>> thank you for that question, i am not sure i would call it a course correction but the administration undertook and evaluation, the situation in syria as presented today and find or u.s. national security interests as i outlined in elaborated ways to pursue them, it's a larger multilateral effort having with partners in the region and europe taking attention toward that conflict and away from syria and i plan to make syria a priority within the department of state to
enhance as noted. the ranking member noted, sharpen the pressure and close collaboration with peterson to define how we might best use the leverage we have, isolation, enhanced isolation and depression to get substantial gain. among other things and even the political seems a lot right now, and there are a series of things and within the resume ability news soon change, and even conditions such as an accountability for the disappeared ceasing of the construction setting conditions for the safe return of refugees.
i view these pieces assembled as being the element can tell you what i hear from leaders in the region and basically their argument is your all not doing anything about massage. we need to deal with it in the absence of any concrete measures. you saw the you posted a thought on the anniversary which was a callous moment most of them any moment. what further steps of the administration taking to prevent countries like you a you and others normalizing ties with the asad regime? >> sermon, one thing i have
looked at closely is the difference between the rhetoric and misinformation disinformation, much propagated by russians and iranians to suggest sweeping ways in the region. an opinion is divided with a significant number of states having no desire having traveled down that road. what i hear from the partners of ours in the region, there is an arab voice, arab voices missing in damascus for too long. the way to get at negating, diminishing, pushing out iranian presence and iranian activities is to reinsert that. i am fully skeptical, i think it's from every direction and gives nothing in return.
what i intend to urge is that engagement must produce results for the benefit of the syrian people. >> two final questions, we have the cross-border issue that will expire, how do you see that playing out? is a political solution under 2254 still viable? even though i think it's a desirable path, there is nothing behind it. >> to your first question, 2585 last year russia lost the same threat of a veto and the administration across the administration to bring countries together, a passage of a resolution doing a similar
strategy, if anything there is greater sense around urgency and critical nature of a bore axis points and if anything, we look for further points so we are very committed to that. 2254, i agree, there's not a lot of room for optimism right now. i am an eternal optimist that i am focused on making progress whether the humanitarian conditions for syrian people, measures that lie within the remit to grants but i also intend to work aggressively on the political aspects. >> i hope your right on the issue, that was pre-ukraine.
>> i agree, the situation will be a lot tougher now. a little over ten years ago i was in this room sitting here and we have people sitting in the chairs you are sitting in and they short us asad couldn't last more than 30 days a month that was over ten years ago and of course he's still there. during that ten years, it's hard to find anyone on the planet before it has done worse. he is right up there. when you see something like him being welcome by another country, the distinguished head of state, it is sickening particularly when it's being done by states that a friend of
ours and share our values, there's nothing in welcoming this man is a conquering hero that reflects america's values at all. i hope you continue in strongest terms to communicate to those people how nauseating it is to us. the chairman and i have both done that and we would welcome to join in that, but we are going through in ukraine is somewhat like this, we can't have this in just as what happened in ukraine, the hostilities have cranked down but we can't have this in until it's over. it's not over, it will never be over until people are held to account for what they have done and we are a long ways from
that. i think the one case i referred to is merely scratching the surface but this is something that's got to go on for a long time. i'd appreciate hearing from each of you your efforts as the chairman and i have done and push back on allies of ours from doing what they appear to be doing things well, it's over. no, it is not. >> i couldn't agree with you more, i've spent three years in bosnia after guns have fallen silent. a devastated country and years later it is still socially economically the walking wounded acute feeling among the public that accountability was missing and they were forced to live with people who had only a few
years earlier killed, massacred their loved ones so i know how the failure for accountability wants society and why i am committed to this because society without the means to gain accountability to understand where their loved ones went, who was responsible and how they will be held accountable as a society simply cannot deal so i am dedicated to that and as to ten years ago, i admit at the time i was working on iraq, deputy six and secretary deeply concerned about the stove effects, it would act as a bellows on iraq and it did. i was ever confident assad would fall not because i had a crystal
ball but is in the nature of such regimes they claim they are the last one to go down and they don't crack easily. all of that said, my own conversations with our partners in the region close or not so close will be informed by these values. i was shocked, welcomed as any head of state, we've made it clear it is an enormous propaganda value and nothing more so i will continue those efforts. >> i am almost out of time. he made reference in your opening statements to the situation in northeast syria. both of us have had heads of state and others from the region underscore what are really
serious problem this is. what can you tell us about the situation and what you see there and what your efforts are to do something about it? >> thank you, as i noted in my opening statement, the only long-term solution both for the future stabilization in the area and the defeat of isis is the reduction of the population in the region of these isis buyers and country of origin, will need to go beyond iraq and syria. we are continually engaging through diplomacy and offering support to the country. number two, tremendous efforts through the united nations, the u.s. government and partners in the coalition to support the iraqi government, majority of these are iraq and origin and long-term solution for the
integration of syrian fighters into the communities which will be difficult without broader political process syria button is a long-term proposition and will require intense painstaking diplomacy supported by humanitarian stabilization aid which we will continue. we are focused on ensuring facilities are secure and humane to the housing and sncf bearing the burden for the international community securely and humanely have the support they provide. going with authorities to construct purposeful studies for the secure humane detention of isis items and ensuring the guards of these areas have proper training to address the needs of the population and need to detain them. >> thank you, mr. chairman and our witnesses.
i want to follow up on the accountability issue because it is concerning to know that asad has been able to accumulate corruption in the way these led syria misuse of power to see him welcomed, he said he made it clear to the uae and other countries in the region that have done similar types of accommodations the regime, contrary to our policies that have good ties and partnerships with the united states. you go more with us for the game plan isolating the asad regime particularly in the region and how we engage traditional preachers in the region to make it clear welcoming asad is not
welcome here in the united states? >> thank you for that question. over the course of the past year i would say you have a couple of high profile events such as asad posted in the uae. there have been phone calls and interactions between regional governments and the regime, have not highlighted every time we had the discussions but i can assure you there ongoing which each and every government in the region and last year there was quite a bit of remix, more than remote that there was consideration of unfreezing, reinstating serious membership, the decision for the league and the members suffice to say who's
had a number of conversations and in the end there was no appetite for that and that's why i said earlier there is the effort ongoing by the regime to paint a picture that's re- embraced by the region. they are making sure it is not the case. i plan to use a variety of tools to that end to sharpen his isolation and it will be part of the roadmap with our submission, i hope eventually our missions will be led by confirmed investors but they were have their playbook that conversation with the government to ensure we muster the deepest sense of leverage against all the elements.
>> talking about the asad regime trying to reach out to be a serious who disagree and the trap act, what strategies do we have to make it clear that we will not allow the conversation to be in a manipulated by the regime, what reforms are we working on and how much success have we had? >> that's something i would need to get more reach on but suffice to say i recognize this is a key piece of our approach. we do not want the abuse to essentially go after dissidents or everyday experience living abroad.
i will make that part of the playbook. >> i appreciate that let me underscore a lot of tools at our disposal including sanctions and other ways we can express concerns about the conduct of the asad regime. i suggest the timing on these issues could be impacted by what's happening in the region as far as asad being welcomed in other countries, and issue we have to be sensitive how we handle the timing to make it clear we not accept asad being welcomed as a normal partner in the region. >> points well taken, thank you. >> senator portman is with us virtually. >> appreciate it and thanks for your testimony today. for what it is worth, my sense
is other countries are looking to us to figure out what our plan is long-term for asad and until we have a clear picture and give them a better sense of what we intend to have happen, i think it is difficult for us help us in terms of isolating him, developing a normal relationship with him. our u.s. policy preserving the official war, those are questions that i think have to be answered. i don't know if you're interested in answering that. i want to focus on two issues, using food as a weapon, we've seen resident putin do this in ukraine, he's doing it as we talk and we have seen asad and
russia do that. the russian diplomats united nations security council abused their power to close down these core doors going into syria. groups around the world, starting people in syria are frustrated, it's making their work harder. i guess they believe by taking away this ability to help on the food front, it forces people to rely on asad, his legitimacy would be enhanced by the. i would like to know if you think that is true but my question is, there's a resolution coming up next month to hopefully reauthorize the one remaining border crossing still being used so will russia veto that resolution and what are you
doing to engage other countries to ensure this can continue? >> to your question, food as a weapon, making them more food insecure makes them more dependent on asad, i think the answer is simpler. it is cruelty for cruelty psaki. it is brutality, it's because they can do it. the record of the conflict. we are already well underway in terms of methodical aggressive efforts to have it renewed as a
cross-border access points into western syria and we will look for further access points. it is more critical than even last year when it was urgent that be maintained. food insecurity is all the greater because of putin's brutal war on ukraine and what it has done to lockup ukrainian week stores and other commodities and other ports so it is more critical than ever humanitarian community is on it, the donor community is fixated on it and i think there is a wide consensus already that cross borders must be renewed. >> you been to submit my second question about ukraine and whether it's a vaccine, russian
consisting on odesa having an impact, global food insecurity and you said it does have an impact and including the week part of the humanitarian aid practices necessary because it's p keeping people alive so thank you for that. funding this issue, it's a constant frustration, the turks believe somehow sef is a significant threat to them and my understanding is they are on the offensive against our allies and they have signaled in some cases they might be willing to partner with the regime out of desperation. do you agree with that and i have you engaged not to attack
allies and if so, what was the response? >> thank you, the turkish government is well aware of our views, we have had a series of high-level engagements with them, i have not yet, about a week or so into my job, i'm looking for early opportunity to engage the government on this but any venture, military operation across the border into northern area, first and foremost puts the civilian population in the crosshairs and second, severely present risk a critical mission global the isis coalition, the u.s. is undertaking and it puts into the crosshairs our own partners in the mission so we are completely on our efforts with the turkish government to back on this ill
considered venture. >> senator shaheen. >> to do a follow-up on that question, is turkey going to back off? we are expressing concerns but so far they have not responded to our concerns not only on this but other areas. >> to be candid, i couldn't give you the assurance that they are going to. >> thank you. assistant secretary last august before this committee you gave a very thorough whole of government approach just as you did this morning with senator when he raised concerns about the isis detainees. unfortunately the situation has gotten worse in time and we have
passed legislation to create an isis detainees coordinator and i understand will look at counterterrorism as well as isis detainees, i think that's probably not the best way to get something done in that area so can you talk about what we need to do to have a functioning coordinator who can do the things you've laid out so eloquently and needs to be done to address this problem? >> thank you for that question. on the specific question of identifying one coordinator, i'm going to defer to assistant secretary on how she tends to address that now that she's in but i will say from the od perspective within the authorities and resources we
have number one, what we can do in near to medium term, support this ef and ensure these facilities, detainees are more secure and humane. it is not a military mission, they are humanitarian, we can do is support by giving them the tools and training for addressing the security and communitarian needs of that population. then engaging constantly about ensuring humanitarian ngo access to these populations -- >> i want to cut you off but let me ask secretary lee to respond, please. >> i've had several discussions in particular with the complement or general and we are going to work together on the
set of issues, i hope to make an early trip to iraq and engage with government since so many of the women and children in that camp and fighters are of iraqi origin. i went to work closely with them on this issue because it does really require beyond isis coalition efforts to secure the camp to ensure constant humanitarian support, we have got to get it done. i have seen the numbers the last couple of years go from 73, 60000, they are not i think around 60000. we've got to be relentless on this and i plan to work to that effect with them. >> do you expect to have an isis detainees coordinator functioning in that capacity?
>> honestly i don't know, i'll take your question back and come back to you. >> even though we passed legislation, it needs to happen? >> it has not happened yet, ct bureau is double-headed but i will take your question back. >> clearly i think we need to pass legislation. we are going to see something done and be serious about it then we have to have somebody in charge of that and while i understand it is still a problem, with other middle eastern members are coming and saying this is a problem that has to be addressed and we can't do it ourselves, we need to figure out how to get it done and so far we are not making much progress. i have a final question, secretary menendez talked about his opening remarks, we are
seeing more and more availability not only helping fund the asad regime but also creating even more destabilizing synthetic trade, we are dealing with fentanyl, i've seen it very directly in my home state of new hampshire so i know potential problems from the synthetic drug trade so what can we do to help address that and are you confident the lebanese armed forces can help control that trade across the border with lebanon? >> i think the dimensions of the trade, production and trafficking which yes, this is something associated with members of the regime, isis, you
name it, criminal and terrorist elements from lebanon to syria are involved so i think it's an effort that goes well beyond the limits of one actor however much they may attempt to deal with it. we've had discussions with saudis and the others deeply concerned about the spreading of toxic nature and what it's doing to their society so i will make it part of my mission to work with these governments. we do have a number of agencies engaged with regional partners and information sharing, coordinating operations and targeting financial trafficking network and we need to enhance those efforts. >> while it's another reason we need to ensure the armed forces continue to function, thank you, mr. chairman.
>> senator kaine. >> thank you, mr. chairman. congratulations on your son's achievement yesterday, that was a very -- exciting to see. i want to ask about refugees and syrian refugees and asylum seekers and neighboring countries on those countries and our policy in the united states. 6 million refugees and asylum-seekers, sizable populations and lebanon, jordan, turkey, elsewhere certainly. many living as they can in society and small countries, lebanon, the number of refugees compared to a population is sizable, taxing on the school system and other services. in jordan, a water for countries without water resources, they are significant challenges for them. talk about what we are doing, we
have challenging relationships with turkey but turkey is posting huge numbers of refugees in camps and society. what are we doing with neighboring countries to help them deal with the issues so they don't become trouble spots in countries that have their own internal challenges to deal with? >> thank you, you have touched on one of the most enduring troubling tragic dimensions on their own people, displacement of half of the population either internally or externally and as you said, it's an enormous set of stressors on countries already stressed. lebanon you would think would have broken by now. jordan equally struggled in terms of scarce water resources.
it's a hot topic domestically. we are using the generosity of the american taxpayer and this congress we are using funding streams we have to offset in every way possible this burden and one of the things as i touched upon earlier was my desire to work in the space that would help the first floor them to return again in a safe secure unmolested manner to their villages. we agreed's conditions were at large not there for the voluntary dignified return refugees and there is some question or maybe less a
question, a conviction they have to keep all of those refugees outside his orders. we work with each country in turn to assist with the nature of the pressures and the problems hosting these refugees present. ambassador linda, pledging conference and announced over $808 million in assistance which will help toward that end. >> let me switch to the united states, the administration drove down the admissions to a low level compared to our norms. president biden indicated we'd raise the refugees back up to about 120,000. last year 2021 we allowed 1200
syrian refugees into the data states just by order of magnitude, 1200 india when we brought 76000 afghans in the united states in a period of 90 days. i support that on the afghan side and the ukrainian side. the numbers are pretty low and they've been in this status for some time so it's not just if they are brand-new, these have been vetted to the processes for some time now. what you stand the administration's plan to be with respect to refugees to the united states? >> this is something under review, i don't have a firm answer but i will come back to you with that. we will have complications with my colleague and friend over
this responsibly but i will get an answer on that. my concern is that we manage these stressors on neighboring countries with a variety of tools including welcoming syrians to the united states. >> thank you, i have no other members here, there have been conflicting accounts to the effect russia's invasion of ukraine has had on his posture and the security situation. russian airstrikes have continued but perhaps reduced there are reports russia is scaling back presence on the ground in syria raising concerns iran me be filling the vacuum have you seen a notable change
in russia's syria posture because of ukraine and if so, how and where have they taken advantage of that change? >> thank you for the question, we have not seen a notable change in russian activities nor in its commitment to backing a thought in its brutal campaign terrorizing the syrian people. i should note russian forces are active, they operate in close proximity to u.s. forces in syria, a testament to the professionalism of u.s. forces that there has not been inadvertent escalation or miscalculation. we are there for the defeat of isis although we seen russian disinformation and misinformation so it's worked against isis and syria, there's no indication they are taking meaningful action against the. >> this has been alluded to but the january prison break in northeastern syria as well as other complex attacks and open
extortion of civilians in syria and iraq are a reminder isis remains a threat in both countries even after the end of the day. what gaps have these exposed in this capacity to secure prisons and continue and what is the administration doing to address the gaps and boost capacity? >> thank you for the question. they are under tremendous pressure both because they are operating in an area that's not stabilized or recovered since the depravity of isis territory. there are food and security challenges particularly acute placing stress on sdf family members and their communities and access to medicine, supplies and etc. are complicated in
northeast syria. what the u.s. military is doing with the coalition is using authority and appropriations congress through funding to continue to provide stipends, training and equipment focus exclusive on defeating isis and supporting detention of isis detainees and trying to support them. i should note sdf will be under even more strained to maintain the focus we want to maintain on isis should there be a large-scale turkish invasion. >> i understand senator ben holland has logged on. >> thank you, mr. chairman and to both our witnesses. that's a good jump off,
following up on the question. has the administration made clear that turkey and no uncertain terms that an attack on these groups in northern serious unacceptable to the united states after all have been said, sdf is critical to the fight against isis? if we communicate, that's a clear no go zone for the united states? >> yes, senator. >> ambassador we. >> let me just add to what ambassador lee confirmed, we are focused on enduring defeat of isis, maintaining protections for the civilian population in northeast syria and protection of the u.s. forces and coalition forces. large-scale incursions either by turkish military turkish support
of opposition in syria would have negative impact and jeopardize our commission, we make that clear consistently. >> thank you. as you know, turkey indicated they would like to purchase additional f-16s and upgrades for existing f-16s. how would a turkish military action in northern syria and popped the administration's decision-making on that? >> it's predecisional and i wouldn't have anything i could offer you today. >> well, i hope we are communicating clearly to turkey. that would be an unacceptable step, turkey is threatening to hold up finland and sweden to
nato because of those countries support so it seems to be a moment where we have to communicate very clearly to turkey what the red lines are. let me ask you about economic support, i want to commend the administration for the licenses. can you talk about how the additional economic support funds are implemented on the ground? >> in terms of general license 22, this came about through the helpful suggestion by the chairman and senator rubio that we look to enhance opportunities for economic regeneration in areas liberated by isis in fact what the license is all about,
assisting communities of the areas to engage in commercial activity and so forth that will create resiliency and put at bay the prospects for isis. ... in terms of the general license have you seen any positive impact from that? >> is a relatively new development. i will begin with that and come back with a more detailed assessment as to what impact it is having. >> thanks. my final question relates to the
upcoming july vote in the u.n. security council about the humanitarian corridor and understand senator risch asked about this and indicated it was last year and at the end you would be grateful to maintain the quarter. obviously things happen. since last july and this july the russian invasion of ukraine. what would be the impact if russia was to prevent that action? >> senator it would trigger a massive humanitarian crisis. there's no substitute for the cross-border access point. as part of last year's discussion to 2585 language included a commitment to crossline assistance could also be prior ties and indeed to give
you a sense of the scale something on the order of 1.5 million syrians are of service on an average month. there are been for cross-border advances of matériel and foodstuffs and other commodities for syrians in the northwest over the course of the year. the last one i think was a civil-rights provision for 40,000 syrians. the scale is entirely different. the u.s. is committed to getting humanitarian assistance through to the needy through all possible means that there's no question the cross-border access is the single most important effect. >> thank you. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you. we have colleagues that of now joined us. senator young. >> thank you chairman.
ms. subseven senator cain and i have worked on authorizations for military force to my understanding operation resolve does not rely on either of these. rather it is authorized pursuant to the 2001 aumf. is that accurate? >> yes senator that is accurate. >> i just want to confirm my understanding that would repeal of the 2002 and 91 amuf nakedly impact our mission or endanger her service in syria under operation inherent resolve? >> repeal of the 2002 aumf would be unlikely to constrain a reasonably foreseeable range of options in syria or iraq or to impact our ability to protect our national security. they are now ongoing elecare
committees that rely solely on the 2002 aumf. >> i in the 1991 aumf and this is so far in of the past it's not even at issue. is that accurate? >> yes it's accurate. >> does dod have the authority and resources necessary to counter an islamic state in the eastern security aaron to conduct related coward or terrorism operations? >> yes senator is a matter of domestic law we rely on the 2001 aumf the author use of force in syria against al qaeda and isis. >> all right, thank you. >> put me on the record i still think it's a good idea since we are allies with the iraqi government, the iraqi people and we are not any for with them.
they were targeted with hussein's regime. assistant secretary leaf despite your opening statement turn the administration is signaling to open some normalization there is roker deal to deliver gas to lebanon by a pipeline in syria. the assad regime recompense for facilities as well. this seems in contravention to our policy in syria and counter to the intent of the pack. how does the lebanon gas deal not violate u.s. sanctions barring transactions with the syrian government? >> senator thank you for that question and it's a great opportunity to lay out what we are hoping to do through this prospective arrangement and i would say the new decisions have been made that it has no contracts have been finalized. there is a process underway right now and let me start by
saying there's a process underway right now to finalize the contracts through the various governments that let me start by saying that driver for any such arrangement is a benefit of the lebanese people. lebanon has been in the parlor state for several years and is now on the verge of, societal collapse. we are trying to rewrite it measures to put a score under such a prospect because the repercussions for the lebanese people are one thing and the repercussions for the wider region would be even greater for israel jordan and others. we are working on a variety of measures and this is one of them. this was probably and coming forward with the reasonable solutions, transferring egyptian
natural gas by jordan through various pipelines. there is as we understand it there is no cash transfer of any kind to the syrian government said it would in kind and i would stress the lebanese people have two hours of electricity today. he would be a matter of minutes of power. >> my time is limited. your believe visits limited to our allies you don't think this sends mixed messages for any sort of negative message to our allies for fighting against the assad regime and others in the region. you are concerned about isolating the assad regime and holding mr. assad accountable? >> senator i think people are very clear on who this is
intended intended for and i will tell you the king of jordan is one of the most concerned of our part or is about to prospective collapse in lebanon that he would like to do whatever is possible to mitigate that aspect. >> thank you both. >> thank you. senator cruz. >> thank you senator risch and thank you to our panel for your service and for your testimony piteous of elmo rush's unprovoked attack on ukraine has garnered significant local attention it's critical we sustain our oka son sustainment with russia's meddling commission of human rights abuses that led to massive suffering and widespread displacement. more than 14 million people inside syria are receiving humanitarian aid and 97% of the syrian population lives at the poverty line. i keep pushing for broke bust assistance and shootings.
refugees as this conflict on into its 11th year but it's critical leader within our power to maintain cross-border access and to continue pressing for other humanitarian access. i'm concerned prospect of russian beauty of it the security council when the renewal comes up this july will lead to further suffering. russia has used its seat on the security council to weaken international resolve across a wide range of issues to spread disinformation. how were we working secretary leaf how are we working with other like minded security councilmembers to prevent a a veto to counter russian influence within the security council? >> thank you for that question senator. it's a preoccupation for us in the department of state for a mission and we are working on all channels. i would just say they are pretty significant players in this
space in terms of their channels with russia. one of them is turkey. turkey will be directly affect the by the scale of humanitarian crisis unleashed by russia vetoing this border crossing and i know the turkish government is quite engaged in the discussion as are a number of others. as i've looked at this and as we are working together hand-in-hand with other partners outside the council and in a think there's a deep consensus on this matter. russia will stand alone, completely alone if it does go forward with this. really this is a strictly humanitarian matter and i'm not going to say whether i'm optimistic or pessimistic at this point. i'm just focused on getting the results we need. >> one of the things i've been focused on this the food crisis resulting from rush's unprovoked
and illegal attack on ukraine and the way in which the 400 million people who are hit by ukrainian agricultural products are now risk of famine. something like 12.5 million syrians have suffered from food insecurity. what is the status of the food supply in syria and what actions is the administration taking to address the critical needs to get access to that group cultural products of ukraine and how might we address the cooking oil and food shortages and the continued blockade of the black sea and ukraine? >> senator there are efforts underway in the number of channels in our government to get to the heart of the problem which is the blockade of ukraine's ports and the targeting of course of ukraine's other supplies. you're absolutely right that syria is made all the more
vulnerable in populations made all the more vulnerable by putin's ukraine and so is lebanon. lebanon used to import something on the level of 80% of its needs from ukraine and of course the port explosion blew to pieces all the supplies. we are focusing our humanitarian assistance and certainly our early recovery efforts in this space as part of a larger effort to identify how we can get to the most vulnerable populations. >> for both of you how was russia repositioning as a result of the war in ukraine and to what extent are you seeing the likelihood of increased iranian involvement in syria as the russia's principle security focuses ongoing war in ukraine. >> thank you senator for that
question. we have seen no meaningful changes in russia's intervention in syria and its support to the assad regime or its commitment to backing the assad regime. with respect to iran, iran's ultimate objective has not changed. iran remains committed to pushing u.s. forces and the united states out of the region and continues its commitment to supporting a network of proxies and destabilizing regional governments as well as threatening israel. from a department of defense perspective our commitment to pushing back on the. >> to the decent supporting israel and her inherent right to self-defense also has not changed. >> thank you both for your testimony. >> thank you. senator cruz. >> thank you mr. chairman and good morning to each of you.
secretary leaf i want to begin by asking you questions about the administration's plan to route injection gas to lebanon through jordan and syria are you at in the process using the energy of the structure of the iranian controlled assad regime. in january the united states at investor of lebanon said lebanon didn't need to worry about american sanctions and that indeed the u.s. indeed the usa conveyed assurances to that effect. i publicly stated at the time that was exceptionally poured vice. lebanon should absolutely worry about violating u.s. sanctions and so should every other country involved in the schemes. added the congress would strongly oppose the biden administration trying to enrich assad and indeed we have seen and heard some of that opposition already today.
congress will ensure the united states sanctions are fully insured and enforced. the actions of this administration are endangering the american allies involved and exposing them to enter sanction risks. it's also worrying the biden administration has been deliberately vague up his middle east policy. administration officials sometimes say they will provide letters licenses or waivers to exempt countries from sanctions on assad and other times they have set up enough the sanctions passed by congress don't apply it also would like to ask you about that. last october undersecretary newlin said quote quote one scheme falls under the humanitarian -- no sanction would be required in this instance or the state department energy envoy said gas deals don't count as transactions at
all. i'd like you to be specific. is it your understanding the energy project would bring egyptian gas to lebanon would be exempt from sanctions or would it require waivers and licenses to avoid sanctions? >> thank you senator for those questions. we have not seen the final details of these contracts so i reserve judgment. we have made no decisions. we have made no commitments of exceptions, waivers or what have you. we are looking at the details of these contracts. treasury will look at these details and make a finding ban. what we have seen and what we have been privy to in terms of the arrangement that are under discussion would involve the
world then providing a two-year low that's also conditioned on far-reaching expenses of reform at the electricity sector to put it on the sunburn during flooding. we would look at the details of the contract and make a judgment about point rates or the public reports accurate in giving giving assurances that sanctions would apply? >> are not accurate. we have given what are termed. assurances that the government may engage in discussions about these arrangements. at the final decision will by the treasury and the department of treasury. >> they are treasury will not in fact be the final. there will be successor administrations and successor administrations is quite likely
that a featured will immediately move to restore pressure on iran and its proxies and is very likely to revoke any flavors were licenses granted and as a result the conduct of the biden administration is exposing her allies to serious. >> senator these sets of arrangements, press the arrangements came out precisely because of concern on the part of the governments of jordan and egypt and indeed a number of others about the prospect of lebanon to collapse given the diminishing level of energy available and the resort by hezbollah to bring in sanctioned iranian oil. they didn't go to the national electricity grid just to the black market. this is a way to transparently
and the theory of the arrangement will transparently provide life-sustaining and economy sustaining energy to the public because otherwise the state itself is owned the -- of collapse. >> to doesn't give the frustration the ability to disregard mandatory sanctions by congress. a final question you mentioned hezbollah the united states is spend billions of dollars over the last two decades to build up the lebanese armed forces. are you aware of the lebanese armed forces stopping weapons convoys into lebanon and how many times? >> i have to look at that in detail and come back to you with an answer. zunigar is it concerning where giving billions to an armed forces who in any meaningful way does not oppose hezbollah? >> what i can say about these forces they are on the verge of
being the only remaining national cetacean that has the capability to sustain security and to mitigate the effects of lebanon's collapse. there is one institution nationally that is trusted by the lebanese republic. the last thing want to see is a collapse. and thank you. sins senator risch has the final question and then we'll move on. very briefly because we do need to move on to the next group. i'm not satisfied with the discussion we have had about the lack of sanctions and i've got some matters i want to pursue there. not totally unlike what senator chris: has been pursuing that the answer that syrians can repay in kind in no way exempt us from sanctions so i'd like to
put some questions on the record and asked that you respond. >> it's been announce we are going to the next panel. since you arrived we will recognize you. after this i'm just making a public announcement. we are moving to the next panel into how to submit questions for the record. >> wednesday every committee is scheduled at 10:00. in some instances here it's very difficult because the distance with a travel so i apologize mr. chairman to the committee and members. the assad regime repeatedly broke the century-old taboo against the use of chemical weapons. we obviously want to eliminate the scourge of chemical weapons which is all the more important given the threat that russia
could use chemical weapons in the war in ukraine. in syria we know the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons is not receive certain requested information from syria and the deployment of the decoration assessment team has been delayed because of difficulties acquiring visas to enter syria. secretary of state leaf would assure department doing to work on getting an inspection team into syria to verify the elimination of serious declared annan declared chemical program? >> thank you senator for that program. there is no doubt the assad regime attention of the capability of using these terrifying weapons against the public has to remain the top priority and is it top priority. i will commit to you that i will put my own personal efforts to
that end to clear the way for this team to get into syria and to do its work. >> i think we have to put special emphasis on the even the implications for ukraine because there's complete uncertainty as to sustainability and desperation. actions that are otherwise unacceptable. secretary stroul over 40,000 syrians were registered to fight in ukraine and deployment is beginning. is there anything the united states and partners can do to prevent thousands of syrians mercenaries from six -- successfully transmitting to ukraine? >> we have seen reporting about large numbers of syrians being relocated by russia. we have not seen large-scale movements like that on the
ground. there are smaller groups one or two here or there, find that we haven't seen in our intelligence centers a large movement. we are containing to monitor that very closely. about 40,000 number has not translated in ukraine into operational troops? >> guest senator that is what i'm saying. i think it's important to take note of the massive amounts of disinformation and misinformation in the environment by russia. >> the disinformation you are referring to the visit there are syrian troops or her are not syrian troops there? >> would not seen indication of large amounts of syrians. that is disinformation. >> thank you. that's very helpful. >> thank you. we look forward to continuing
engagement in there at dozen members who came here so this is a topic of great significance. and you are both excused. thank you. for the purposes of the committee's information with consultation of the ranking member to move through the second panel to hear their testimony and then we will see how far we can get to questions. and as we call on them to join us in the hearing room we will introduce them. after 11 years of conflict syria remains as far as ever from a durable solution to the conflict that will allow syria peace and dignity. one of the few constants to the conflict has been the assad regime's treatment of -- from barrel bombs and airstrikes to the regimes industrial scale torture and murder of distance actors and their family members
and detention facilities. over half a million killed and 7 million internally dissed and 6.6 million registered as refugees around the world. more than half of syria's war population. 14.66 million inside of syria need humanitarian assistance but the numbers alone don't provide a full sense of the horrors inflicted by the regime and the continuing importance of holding bashar in his syrian cronies and enablers accountable for the crimes against its people. we'd like to welcome a man known only as "the gravedigger" who will provide a harrowing and -- eyewitness account of its atrocities and to bury the evidence of those crimes by bob dairying it's the en masse
graves. we normally asked witnesses to limit their spoken testimony to five minutes we have agreed to allow "the gravedigger" 10 minutes for his opening statement to allow the full weight of his testimony to be felt. i'd also like to welcome professor milena sterio a professor of law at the cleveland marshall college of law. professor sterio said expert on criminal law in international human rights law pages written extensively on atrocity accountability in general and its application to the syrian conflict in particular. thank you both for joining us today and without i will recognize -- both of your statements will be included fully the record over that we recognize "the gravedigger" for his remarks.
>> thank you chairman menendez. thank you chairman menendez and ranking member rich for holding this hearing and thank you senator risch for inviting me to speak. i am honored to give testimony before this committee to thank you for giving me a chance to bring my voice to the united states congress, government and most importantly to the american people were democracy inspired a revolution in syria over a decade ago. on march 11, 2020 the military photographer shared his story with you. every day he photographed bodies that had been tortured and murdered in syrian regime dungeons but the signs of torture were clear and the photographs were here on display in front of your honorable
committee. in front of your own eyes. experience the most brutal methods of torture burning and ultimately death all for daring to dream of a free syria. now over two years later nothing has changed in syria. the assad regime is no less brutal of the syrian people are no less at risk. how many more times do war crimes need to sit in front of you and describe the horrors of the assad regime? i hope by sharing my story it may spark something inside of you and maybe give us hope for this future of syria but every time i tell my story it takes a toll on me. all i have is my voice and i will speak until i can't anymore. i witnessed mass graves and terry from 2111 to 2019 where men and women, children and
elderly were tortured executed gassed and bombed by the the assad regime in iran emerging carelessly thrown into trenches their face unknown to love one's. their lives have been lost. they cannot be saved. we demand accountability but the reason i'm sharing my story today is to tell you that they are digging mass graves right now tiberi more victims of assad's iran and russia. i'm a civilian before the war is it administrative employee of the damascus disability. my job was to help families make final preparations for their loved ones passing. each was dignified with religious and burials. family members were given opportunity to say goodbye and every grave was respected. in 2011 i offices was visited by
intelligence officials and i was ordered to work for them and when the regime asked for something you don't say no. i was not prepared for the horror of my duties. every week twice a week three trailer trucks arrived packed with 300 to 600 oddities of victims of torture, bombardment and slaughter. twice a week, three to four pickup trucks with 30 to 40 bodies of civilians that have been executed also arrived in the most way. after seven years of bearing witness to these atrocities thanks to god in the ineptitude of the regime i was able to escape syria and follow my family to europe. there was not only my duty to my honor to testify before the german court and seek some semblance of justice to hold war
criminals accountable for their ongoing atrocities in syria. i've never been able to forget what i saw come, the countless bodies are buried. he keeps me up at night and i will never sleep soundly carrying this burden. no one should because these massacres are still happening. they are conservative estimates of at least 160,000 missing and unaccounted for syrians and their families have no closure holding out hope for any bit of information. my heart is heavy with the knowledge that their experience in the humane torture at the hands of the assad regime and i know exactly where they are piled en masse graves that are still being dug today. i know this because others who work with me on the mass grave have recently escaped and confirmed what we have been hearing. the syrian people have suffered enough. over 11 years of war hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have not just doesn't been
executed. start tortured earned and murdered in the most ways anyone can imagine. and women men children and children and elderly innocent people slowly tortured to death screaming in the darkness while the world looks the other way. those lucky enough not to be imprisoned live in fear every day. they are being targeted with chemical weapons cluster bombs and internationally banned weapons. among those murdered her americans including journalists and humanitarian workers. i will never forget how forces ridiculed and laughed about the fact that they tortured murdered him. americans to pick the leader of the free world america should set the example to live up at to its values. international order depends on it. when the international community
fails to condemn genocidal massacres of mubarak met with hospitals and schools and disappearances in detention and criminal regimes will continue to push the limits unintended. russia by its own admission test over 200 weapons on syria or the international media looks the other way and now russia is using those same weapons in ukraine after seven years waging war against the syrian people. where's the line line? chemical weapons against innocent civilians. the playbook of these tyrants is written and i fear the for the craning people. enabling -- hurts the russian dictator. we must finally learn from the past and not let this never again moment happen again. i lived with death for seven years with dead bodies and
intelligence op esters but it might seem unimaginable to you. let a share some of the horrors that have never left my mind. one day one of the trailer trucks with thousands of bodies dumped the contents of these hundreds of bodies dead mangled corpses into the trench in front of us. we saw a flicker of movement. there is a man near death. still alive desperately using his last reserve energy to signal to us that somehow he was still alive. one of the civilian workers said, started crying and that we had to do something. the intelligence officer supervising us ordered the old dozer driver to run him over but the driver did not hesitate or else he would have been next. as for the young man we never saw him again.
once i was told to visit the farm of an intelligence officer. when i arrived there were 10 intelligence senior officers eating and drinking alcohol and more surprisingly there were over 15 young men handcuffed blindfolded and on the ground. one of the officers ordered one of the soldiers to untie the civilian and let them go. the blindfolded handcuffs were removed and i remember the confusion and the fear in the young man's eyes. the intelligence officer had what they were waiting for the young man. he told him to run. then another officer grabbed his rifle and picked the young men off one by one. every last one was murdered and officers continued with their -- i buried so many children that were tortured to death and i remember them all.
i buried the mother still holding her infant to her as their lifeless bodies were thrown into the trench among the others. one day i was a military hospital where the bodies are processed before being sent and there was a body of a little girl only six or seven years old. her little lifeless body showed signs of torture. the doctor at the hospital took me aside and told me he was ordered to write that she died of cardiac arrest. in reality she had died issue is being continuously and raped i i 11 senior assad regime intelligence officers. as members of the united states senate you all have the power to change the world or by sharing my story i am taking this burden off of my shoulders and sharing it with you all. this is now on your shoulders.
it's on your conscience to take heed of what's happening in syria. although hundreds of thousands of art even murdered and millions displaced the is still yet to come. he can be prevented. i beg of you to not wait a second longer. i beg of you to take action. and recently i was contacted by a bulldozer driver that works the same time that i worked there and there's a video he submitted that i would like to submit for the record. thank you. >> it is included in the record. thank you very much. professor milena sterio you are recognized. >> at morning chairman menendez, ranking member rich and members of the committee.
it is an honor to testify before you today. it's also a privilege to share this with the other individuals testifying before the commit a especially the. countless atrocities such as mass execution systematic torture and repeated use of chemical weapons against civilians. these crimes require prosecution permit certain standpoint in light of the ongoing conflict in ukraine and the ordering of atrocities by russian leaders establishing accountability for those who ordered the commission of atrocity crimes whether in syria or ukraine has become paramount. accountability options for the prosecution of searing leaders range from prosecutions in syria and the national courts of various countries under the universal jurisdiction the establishment of a hybrid -- and
prosecutions in the international criminal court at the hague in the netherlands. the first prosecution in the courts series. assuming maybe it transition of leadership in syria one point in the future a new syrian regime may be interested in them imposing count the land which is associated with the assad regime for the examples of countries where domestic courts have investigated similar crimes after change in the governing -- include columbia. executions were to cure in the sink or the international community including the united states could assist syria by supporting the establishment of special chambers dedicated to the prosecution of atrocity crimes within the system. they supported domestic chambers have been created in iraq bosnia as well as in the context of prosecutions in kenya. persecutions in various national courts under the principle
universe in -- universal jurisdiction provided they stay with authority to execute rusiecki the limited category of offenses generally recognized of universal concern regardless of where the offense occurred the nationality of the of the nationality of the victim. crimes are rich universal jurisdiction extend include high-risk were crimes crimes against peace genocide and torture. in the context of the searing conflict national courts of 11 the prince of old jurisdiction to initiate investigations. for example on january 132022 the higher regional court in germany convicted of sod officials for crimes against amenity and sentenced to life in prison. there were the same german court convicted his codefendant in the new cases being prosecuted in the courts in frankfurt germany.
a number of other european states including france sweden switzerland austria and the netherlands. hybrid tribunals combined elements of international and national persecution and recent examples of these hybrid courts of cambodia. many have advocated for hybrid tribunal for syria. it could be created to an agreement signed by the united nations general assembly or secretary-general or the government of syria or security council resolution. both options during context that the press things are important accountability office and should be part of accountability regarding said. persecutions of the
international criminal court to the ipc is the only international criminal court located at the hague in the netherlands and has jurisdiction over genocide crimes against humanity were crimes and aggression. the context of syria the ipc limited option serious not a member state and that the court has jurisdiction only in situation where the widget is this another member state for the crime takes place in the territory of the member state that court can only launch persecutions against individuals who committed crimes in syria are member states. a case can be referred to the ipc security council resolution any such resolution regarding syria that the icc was an important global account of the -- accountability and should be contingent explored. a group of human rights lawyers
recently advanced the argument that crimes committed in syria have her link is jordan where many have fled to tigre jurisdictions for the courts in a member state. there's a pressing need to establish accountability for atrocities committed during the syrian conflict for different accountability options include prosecutions in searing court national level prosecutions under universal jars since the establishment of the hybrid tribunal as well as prosecutions at the international criminal court but it's time the international community acts towards accountability. its paramount in the wake of the ongoing conflict in ukraine and the commission of atrocities by russian forces. crucial to establish an accountability to all those who ordered the commission atrocities whether they are located in syria or ukraine. thank you. >> senator risch.
>> of all i want to thank her witnesses for their testimony. it's certainly hard to listen to when this is over it's not over its important we keep this in front of everyone. i am interested in the principle of universal jurisdiction. we are in the early stages of what that will mean in the overall scheme of things. it's interesting to see use for the first time since the german prosecutions. i suspect this body of law is going to grow and i'll be interested to follow that and that will certainly be an important aspect of our belief that never again and i believe it's not over until everyone has been held accountable. >> thank you both for your testimony. ukraine is dominating the global
headlines syria to place were where the laws of war and accountability have been there for years for the assad regime in vladimir putin have made a violation of international law the norm in syria and the media starts to go when it comes to pursuing accountability with more than a decade of violations in syria. i heard your exposition of the possibilities. one of the challenges frustrating obstacles to accountability is the frequent inability to take the perpetrators into custody because they remain outside of any relevant legal jurisdiction. can you explain why it's so important to pursue these legal cases? obviously beyond the overriding importance of giving a voice to the victims of these crimes are the tangible diplomatic clinical benefits to pursuing perpetrators even when
apprehension seems unlikely especially with complex in syria? >> thank you for the question. absolutely. it's important to have accountability and before answer the question let me add that these cases i mentioned in germany in no specific cases the perpetrators were in germany and some of them had sought asylum in germany and german executors realize they were there and were able to capture that moment if you will and arrest them in germany and prosecute them for some of these trials are able to be conducted because these countries have found the to be in their territory but even in the absence of the ability to capture some of these individuals it is important to establish the principle of individual criminal responsibility for those who order atrocities are those who
commit atrocities themselves for the short answers to why it's the right thing to do but the longer answer is international law is nuremberg since the end of world war ii have established the principle of response ability for those who commit these atrocity crimes and give the reason this is so important from a global deterrent standpoint leaders like vladimir putin don't expect they will face accountability some day. many leaders have taken accountability for their actions decades after they committed or ordered those actions to be committed. so important establish accountability for global deterrence and because it's a right thing to do in international law provides for international criminal accountability. >> finally to "the gravedigger" your testimony was very moving. what do you think made it conviction possible in that
case? >> i believe the bravery of the victims and the witnesses both the victims of the crimes of those that were arrested in germany and the bravery of witnesses that came forward will help wring about convictions. >> we appreciate that and your testimony as to the horrors assad has up with the inflicted on his own people and the video even though i'm sure it will be rather consequential. we appreciate the testimony of those of you. the record will remain open
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