EXPRESSING GRAVE CONCERN OF CONGRESS REGARDING CONTINUING GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES OF SYRIAN PEOPLE BY GOVERNMENT OF SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC -- (Extensions of Remarks - September 22, 2004)
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, last fall, the Syrian Accountability Act was overwhelmingly approved. That bill required the President to impose a number of economic and diplomatic sanctions against Syria if the Syrian government failed to end its support for various terrorist organizations, refuses to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction, and fails to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. Correctly, the President invoked such sanctions earlier this summer.
Since the passage of that act, Syria continues to host terrorist headquarters in Damascus, it maintains 17,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon, it supports the terrorist organization Hezbollah, and it continues its vicious anti-American propaganda on government-controlled media.
The Syrian regime is one that not only supports and facilitates terrorist attacks against innocent civilians throughout the world, but also engages in a widespread campaign of terror against its own people.
In 2003, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights classified Syria as one of the world's most oppressive regimes.
According to Human Rights International, in 2003 the Syrian Government used its vast powers to prevent any organized political opposition, continued grave abuses including the use of torture in detention and arbitrary arrests, and allowed violence and societal discrimination against women.
Unfortunately, the gross violations of human rights are not limited to Syria's immediate borders. The repressive regime also extends into neighboring Lebanon, which Syria continues to occurpy. This fact was recently acknowledged by the international community through the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, calling on all foreign troops to withdraw without delay from Lebanon and to stop meddling in the country's November elections.
For all these reasons, I support wholeheartedly House Concurrent Resolution 363, which condemns the continuing gross violations of human rights and civil liberties by the Syrian dictatorship.
Mr. Speaker, H. Con. Res. 363 details and condemns the persistent repression of the people of Syria and Lebanon by the dictatorial Syrian government. It articulates our support for Syria's human rights and pro-democracy activists and calls on free and democratic nations to take a unified stance and condemns the deplorable and heinous human rights record of the Syrian government. Also, it calls for the United States to assist Syrian dissidents in their efforts to help bring freedom to Syria.
I take this opportunity to speak directly to the President and urge him to take these instructions seriously. With respect to Syria, the United States must encourage greater openness, democratization, and economic reform, and to do so it must engage with civil society.
As president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) I am intimately aware of the success of the Organization in motivating the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries to sigh on to progressive standards of human rights and internal goverance. The United States should use a similar strategy of encouraging civil society activists in Syria.
The people of Syria struggle daily from freedom, respect for human rights and civil liberties, democratic self-governance, and the establishment of the rule of law against an authoritarian and tyrannical regime. I support them in their great effort, and denounce the oppressive government of Syria.
Therefore, I ask my colleagues to support this important resolution.