The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, also known as the Caesar Act, is a United States legislation that sanctions the Syrian regime, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for war crimes against the Syrian population.
In the summer of 2013, while the Syrian civil war was raging, an unnamed Syrian police officer in charge of photography fled the country with 55,000 photographs.
These images show corpses with signs of torture. The release of these images sparked a wave of anger against the Syrian regime.
The real name of the officer, known as ‘Caesar,’ was never disclosed, although he appeared in Congress several times.
Five years ago, based on Caesar’s images, a plan was put on the agenda of the US Congress, which imposed extensive sanctions on the Syrian government. But in the last five years, for various reasons, the plan has never been implemented. Under the bill, U.S. lawmakers passed a law entitled ‘ The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act.’
U.S. President Donald Trump signed the law in December 2019. It was included in the US Department of Defense’s 2020 budget. Thus, Caesar’s law became part of the applicable law of 2020. In the middle of this month, Caesar’s law will be officially enforced.
Caesar’s law imposes sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as on individuals and companies that trade with the Syrian government. Caesar’s law also targets military factories, infrastructure, and the Syrian Central Bank.
The United States had imposed sanctions on Syria before Caesar’s law was passed. In fact, Caesar’s law establishes some of these sanctions. However, Caesar’s law has new dimensions that were not so prominent in the previous sanctions, and that is the sanctions on the economic trade of other countries with Syria.
The form of this law is very similar to the US sanctions against the Iranian regime, so it means that even European and Arab counties who want to deal with this country may be subject to US sanctions and punishments.
Sanctions imposed under Caesar’s law are so widespread that they affect almost all sectors of Assad’s economy. For example, under this law, no foreign person or company has the right to invest in Syria’s energy or aviation sectors. No one has the right to give spare parts to Syrian planes. Anyone who lends to the Syrian government will be sanctioned.
This law consists of four main parts:
First, targeting all financial resources supporting the ruling Syrian regime so that all avenues to circumvent previous sanctions are blocked.
Second, the speedy punishment and sanctioning of those who disobey the law, in the second paragraph of this law refers to the punishment of those responsible for human rights violations against Syrian civilians or their family members, to the extent, that it is enough to prove the participation of one person or company in any attempt to violate human rights in Syria or to participate in the torture or attack on civilians, it should be immediately included in the US sanctions list.
Third: Supporting civilians and documenting war crimes.
Fourth: Changing the behavior and performance of the ruling Syrian regime, this means that only the President of the United States can repeal the sanctions as it is coming in the fourth paragraph of Caesar’s law, and only in the form of the Syrian government taking real steps to guarantee human rights.
But more interesting the Iranian regime’s concern about this law. It hopes to have a breathing space to circumvent the sanctions. But with this step by the U.S., its dream will be blown away.
On this subject, Iran’s state-run website Rouydad 24 wrote:
Although Caesar’s law primarily targets the Syrian economy, it will have a negative and detrimental effect on its economic relations with Russia and Iran. Russia and Iran are two important economic partners of Syria. Therefore, after the implementation of Caesar’s law, Iranian or Russian companies that trade with Syria may face a new wave of sanctions.” (Rouydad 24, 4 June 2020)