Freedom House: Obama Must Call for Assad’s Ouster
In response to the increasingly grave human rights situation in Syria, Freedom House today joined other human rights groups in sending a letter to President Barack Obama asking that he take a number of concrete actions against the Syrian government, including calling for President Bashar al-Assad’s immediate ouster.
“The atrocities that the Syrian government has perpetrated against its own civilians are beyond the pale, and it is incumbent upon all members of the international community, especially democratic governments led by the United States, to do everything possible to bring an end to this brutality,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “Assad has proven to be irredeemable in the eyes of his own people and the international community; the only viable option is for him to go.”
President Assad has ignored international calls for him to cease attacks on civilians in the cities of Hama, Deir Ezzor, Bokamel, Arben, and Madameya. Since the protests began in March, more than 2000 have been killed and many more injured and detained. President Obama recently announced a new “Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities” which will create a new interagency Atrocities Prevention Board tasked with coordinating a comprehensive government approach to prevent mass atrocities and genocide.
“If President Obama is serious in his intention to make the prevention of mass atrocities a U.S. priority, Syria fits that bill,” continued Kramer.
Printed below is the text of the letter:
August 10, 2011
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We share your disgust with the Syrian government’s violence and brutality against its own people, and we urge you to take stronger action in response to the ongoing assault against the Syrian people.
The last four and a half months of violence against peaceful protestors in Syria have already left an estimated 2,000 dead, and this violence has escalated with attacks by the Syrian army on the cities of Hama, Deir Ezzor, Bokamel, Arben, and Madameya. As you have said, this ongoing violence shows that President Assad is completely incapable and unwilling to respond to the legitimate grievances of the Syrian people.
We agree on your assessment of the situation in Syria and support your new Directive on Mass Atrocities, which states that the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide “is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” However, we are disappointed by the so far inadequate and uneven response of the U.S. government in regards to Syria and strongly urge that additional action from the United States not await the 100-day review of tools available to U.S. Policy Makers that was called for in the directive. We urge you to immediately call on President Assad to step down and lead a concerted international effort to raise the pressure on his regime.
Moreover, we recommend several steps to increase pressure on Assad’s regime to end the violence:
- Immediately call for the resignation of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and support his prosecution for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court upon his removal from power
- Secure support in the United Nations Security Council for a strong resolution (versus the statement that was issued last week) to condemn the Syrian government’s brutality against peaceful protestors and demand that the perpetrators be held to account; to get Russian and Chinese abstentions, if not outright support, will require your personal efforts with Presidents Medvedev and Hu
- Increase sanctions on Syria in concert with the European Union, including sanctions on its oil and gas sectors
- Instruct Ambassador Ford to make further visits to cities affected by Syrian government crackdowns
- Meet with leaders of the Syria opposition, as Secretary Clinton did on Tuesday
These steps are critical to back up your statements on the escalating violence in Syria and to help the Syrian people achieve a positive solution to the crisis. They will also place us firmly on the right side with those fighting for freedom and human rights in Syria.
We look forward to your leadership in building stronger international collaboration for progress in Syria.
David J. Kramer
President, Freedom House
President, Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition
Executive Director, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)