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White House Fact Sheet on Syria

The United States has taken a series of steps and actions to work toward putting an end to the Syrian government’s violence, arrests, and torture, supporting the Syrian people’s universal rights, and pushing for a democratic transition.

Executive Orders, Sanctions, and other Financial Actions

Syria has been designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism since December 1979. An additional layer of sanctions was added in May 2004 with the issuance of Executive Order 13338, which implemented the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 and imposed additional measures pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Subsequent Executive orders have imposed additional sanctions targeting, among others, the President of Syria.

Since the beginning of Syrian unrest, we have intensely pursued targeted financial measures to increase pressure on the Syrian regime. We have specifically targeted those responsible for human rights abuses, senior officials of the Syrian government, and Syrian businessmen linked to the Syrian regime. Our goal is to put an immediate stop to the Syrian government’s use of violence against civilians and its policies of mass arrests and torture, and to pressure the Syrian regime to allow for a democratic transition as per the demands of the Syrian people. Our actions to date include:

Today, President Obama signed a new Executive Order taking additional steps pursuant to the national emergency with respect to Syria that blocks the property of the Syrian government, bans U.S. persons from new investments in or exporting services to Syria, and bans U.S. imports of, and other transactions or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products. This is the strongest financial action we have taken against the Syrian regime thus far. This Executive Order is consistent with the remaining sanctions provisions of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act.

Since the unrest began in mid-March, we have designated 32 Syrian and Iranian individuals and entities, including Syrian businessmen and their companies. These actions freeze the assets of and prohibit all U.S. persons from doing business with the identified individual or entity, thereby isolating them from the U.S. financial system.

On August 10, pursuant to E.O. 13382, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated the Commercial Bank of Syria for its involvement in proliferation activities, and also designated its subsidiary, Syrian-Lebanese Commercial Bank. The Commercial Bank of Syria was identified by the Treasury Department as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern in 2004 and, pursuant to Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, has been subject since 2006 to a final rule prohibiting U.S. financial institutions from maintaining correspondent accounts for the Commercial Bank of Syria.

On July 8, the Treasury Department issued a warning to U.S. financial institutions alerting them to the potential for increased illicit financial activities involving accounts held by or on behalf of senior political figures in Syria, as a result of the unrest in Syria.

On May 18, President Obama signed Executive Order 13573 targeting senior Syrian government officials due to their government’s continuing escalation of violence against the Syrian people. President Assad and six other regime officials were listed in the Annex to this Order.

On May 18, the Department of Commerce suspended specific licenses related to Syrian Air’s Boeing 747 aircraft.

On April 29, President Obama signed Executive Order 13572 imposing sanctions on certain individuals and entities listed in the Annex to the Order and providing the authority to designate persons responsible for human rights abuses in Syria, including those related to repressing the Syrian people. Notably, President Assad’s brother Maher al-Asad and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) were listed in the Annex to this Order.

On April 29, the Department of Commerce revoked commercial export licenses pertaining to Syrian official VIP aircraft.

Actions at the United Nations and Other Diplomatic Efforts

The United States has led an international effort at the United Nations (UN) to push for a UN Security Council Resolution that would increase pressure on the Syrian government to stop its brutal repression of the Syrian people. Additional actions taken include:

On August 3, with strong U.S. leadership, the UN Security Council adopted by consensus a Presidential Statement condemning the Syrian government’s widespread human rights abuses and use of force against civilians.

The United States worked with allies to ensure that, after a protracted diplomatic struggle and in the face of significant opposition from the Syrian regime and other non-democratic governments, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted UN accreditation on July 25 to the Syrian non-governmental organization the Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. This was the first Syrian NGO ever to receive ECOSOC accreditation, which allows it to attend and take part in UN events.

On July 22, the State Department imposed travel restrictions on the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C., in response to Syrian efforts to restrict the movement of U.S. diplomats in Damascus. Syrian diplomats now must request permission prior to leaving Washington, D.C.

On June 15 in Geneva, the United States and Canada drafted a statement signed by 54 UN member states that addressed the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and urged the Syrian government to allow access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ fact finding mission.

The United States led the call for a Special Session on Syria at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. On April 29, the Human Rights Council passed a strong resolution condemning the Syrian government and calling for an investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. To date, Syria has refused access to the High Commissioner’s investigative team, despite calls from the Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The United States actively lobbied to prevent Syria from being elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Our lobbying efforts against Syria’s offensive campaign resulted in Syria withdrawing its candidacy on May 11.

The United States has taken a series of steps and actions to work toward putting an end to the Syrian government’s violence, arrests, and torture, supporting the Syrian people’s universal rights, and pushing for a democratic transition.

Executive Orders, Sanctions, and other Financial Actions

Syria has been designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism since December 1979. An additional layer of sanctions was added in May 2004 with the issuance of Executive Order 13338, which implemented the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 and imposed additional measures pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Subsequent Executive orders have imposed additional sanctions targeting, among others, the President of Syria.

Since the beginning of Syrian unrest, we have intensely pursued targeted financial measures to increase pressure on the Syrian regime. We have specifically targeted those responsible for human rights abuses, senior officials of the Syrian government, and Syrian businessmen linked to the Syrian regime. Our goal is to put an immediate stop to the Syrian government’s use of violence against civilians and its policies of mass arrests and torture, and to pressure the Syrian regime to allow for a democratic transition as per the demands of the Syrian people. Our actions to date include:

Today, President Obama signed a new Executive Order taking additional steps pursuant to the national emergency with respect to Syria that blocks the property of the Syrian government, bans U.S. persons from new investments in or exporting services to Syria, and bans U.S. imports of, and other transactions or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products. This is the strongest financial action we have taken against the Syrian regime thus far. This Executive Order is consistent with the remaining sanctions provisions of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act.

Since the unrest began in mid-March, we have designated 32 Syrian and Iranian individuals and entities, including Syrian businessmen and their companies. These actions freeze the assets of and prohibit all U.S. persons from doing business with the identified individual or entity, thereby isolating them from the U.S. financial system.

On August 10, pursuant to E.O. 13382, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated the Commercial Bank of Syria for its involvement in proliferation activities, and also designated its subsidiary, Syrian-Lebanese Commercial Bank. The Commercial Bank of Syria was identified by the Treasury Department as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern in 2004 and, pursuant to Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, has been subject since 2006 to a final rule prohibiting U.S. financial institutions from maintaining correspondent accounts for the Commercial Bank of Syria.

On July 8, the Treasury Department issued a warning to U.S. financial institutions alerting them to the potential for increased illicit financial activities involving accounts held by or on behalf of senior political figures in Syria, as a result of the unrest in Syria.

On May 18, President Obama signed Executive Order 13573 targeting senior Syrian government officials due to their government’s continuing escalation of violence against the Syrian people. President Assad and six other regime officials were listed in the Annex to this Order.

On May 18, the Department of Commerce suspended specific licenses related to Syrian Air’s Boeing 747 aircraft.

On April 29, President Obama signed Executive Order 13572 imposing sanctions on certain individuals and entities listed in the Annex to the Order and providing the authority to designate persons responsible for human rights abuses in Syria, including those related to repressing the Syrian people. Notably, President Assad’s brother Maher al-Asad and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) were listed in the Annex to this Order.

On April 29, the Department of Commerce revoked commercial export licenses pertaining to Syrian official VIP aircraft.

Actions at the United Nations and Other Diplomatic Efforts

The United States has led an international effort at the United Nations (UN) to push for a UN Security Council Resolution that would increase pressure on the Syrian government to stop its brutal repression of the Syrian people. Additional actions taken include:

On August 3, with strong U.S. leadership, the UN Security Council adopted by consensus a Presidential Statement condemning the Syrian government’s widespread human rights abuses and use of force against civilians.

The United States worked with allies to ensure that, after a protracted diplomatic struggle and in the face of significant opposition from the Syrian regime and other non-democratic governments, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted UN accreditation on July 25 to the Syrian non-governmental organization the Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. This was the first Syrian NGO ever to receive ECOSOC accreditation, which allows it to attend and take part in UN events.

On July 22, the State Department imposed travel restrictions on the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C., in response to Syrian efforts to restrict the movement of U.S. diplomats in Damascus. Syrian diplomats now must request permission prior to leaving Washington, D.C.

On June 15 in Geneva, the United States and Canada drafted a statement signed by 54 UN member states that addressed the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and urged the Syrian government to allow access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ fact finding mission.

The United States led the call for a Special Session on Syria at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. On April 29, the Human Rights Council passed a strong resolution condemning the Syrian government and calling for an investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. To date, Syria has refused access to the High Commissioner’s investigative team, despite calls from the Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The United States actively lobbied to prevent Syria from being elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Our lobbying efforts against Syria’s offensive campaign resulted in Syria withdrawing its candidacy on May 11.

 


FACT SHEET: President Obama Directs New Steps to Prevent Mass Atrocities and Impose Consequences on Serious Human Rights Violators

“The United States is committed to working with our allies, and to strengthening our own internal capabilities, in order to ensure that the United States and the international community are proactively engaged in a strategic effort to prevent mass atrocities and genocide. In the event that prevention fails, the United States will work both multilaterally and bilaterally to mobilize diplomatic, humanitarian, financial, and—in certain instances—military means to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities.”

–National Security Strategy of the United States, May 2010

President Obama is committed to strengthening the United States Government’s ability to prevent mass atrocities and serious human rights violations.  In 2010, he created the first-ever White House position dedicated to preventing and responding to mass atrocities and war crimes.  And in Kyrgyzstan, Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, Sudan, and elsewhere, this Administration has prioritized the protection of civilians and the prevention of mass atrocity and serious human rights violations, and employed a wide range of economic, diplomatic, and other tools in service of those ends.

Today, President Obama is directing a comprehensive review to strengthen the United States’ ability to prevent mass atrocities.  The President’s directive creates an important new tool in this effort, establishing a standing interagency Atrocities Prevention Board with the authority to develop prevention strategies and to ensure that concerns are elevated for senior decision-making so that we are better able to work with our allies and partners to be responsive to early warning signs and prevent potential atrocities.  Today he is also issuing a proclamation that, for the first time, explicitly bars entry into the United States of persons who organize or participate in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of human rights.

The Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities, Presidential Study Directive-10 (PSD-10), is innovative and significant in several respects:

Presidential Prioritization.  In PSD-10, President Obama finds that:  “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.”  He directs agencies to participate in a comprehensive assessment, led by the National Security Advisor, of how best to accomplish this national security imperative.

Organization Matters.  The President notes that, “66 years since the Holocaust and 17 years after Rwanda, the United States still lacks a comprehensive policy framework and a corresponding interagency mechanism for preventing and responding to mass atrocities and genocide.”  The President orders the creation of an interagency Atrocity Prevention Board within 120 days from today so as to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to engaging “early, proactively, and decisively.”

Full Toolbox.  The President rejects the idea that, in the face of mass atrocity, our options are “limited to either sending in the military or standing by and doing nothing.”  He instructs his Administration to undertake a 100-day review – to take an “inventory” of the full range of economic, diplomatic, and other tools available to U.S. policymakers; to develop the appropriate governmental organization to try to ensure early and less costly preventive action; to improve the collection and processing of indicators of mass atrocity; to provide a channel for dissent to be raised during a crisis; and to appropriately train and prepare our diplomats, armed services, development professionals, and others.

A Global Responsibility.  The directive recognizes that preventing mass atrocities is a responsibility that all nations share.  Often other countries are better positioned than the United States to respond to particular crises or potential atrocities.  Recognizing that the burden for preventing mass atrocities must be appropriately shared by other countries, the directive calls for  a strategy for engaging key regional allies and partners so that they are prepared to accept greater responsibility for preventing and responding to crimes against humanity.

The President’s proclamation makes two key contributions:

Closing gaps.  The United States has long sought to ensure that our country does not become a safe haven for human rights violators or those responsible for other atrocities.  Existing U.S. law renders certain human rights violators inadmissible to the United States – such as participants in genocide, torture, extra-judicial killings, or certain violations of religious freedom.  However, before today, the United States did not have an explicit bar to admission on the basis of participation in serious violations of human rights or humanitarian law or other atrocities that do not otherwise fit into those categories specifically enumerated in the Immigration and Nationality Act.  This proclamation fills this gap by expanding the grounds for denial of entry into the United States to cover a broader array of recognized violations of international humanitarian law and international criminal law, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The proclamation will also cover participants in serious human rights violations, such as prolonged arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, slavery, and forced labor, as well as participants in widespread or systematic violence against civilians based on ethnicity or other grounds.

New deterrent.  By enumerating these grounds for denying admission to the United States, policymakers will have a new tool to deter would-be organizers of atrocities, serious human rights violations, and related abuses.  The President’s proclamation empowers the United States to warn groups that have carried out, or may be about to carry out, serious human rights violations or grave atrocities that their conduct falls within explicit standing bans on admission to the United States.  As such, we will be able to more effectively shame those who are organizing such conduct.  The proclamation also bans admission to the United States for those who are complicit in organizing these abuses – not just those who carry them out.  As such, it allows the United States to act before planned abuses and atrocities metastasize into actual ones.

The proclamation is being issued pursuant to the President’s authority under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the President to suspend entry into the United States of aliens whose entry “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”  There are currently seventeen 212(f) proclamations in effect, including Proclamation 8342 (2009), which suspends entry to foreign government officials responsible for failing to combat human trafficking, and Proclamation 7750 (2004), which suspends entry of persons engaged in or benefiting from corruption.

 


FACT SHEET: The Community of Democracies’ “Democracy Partnership Challenge: A Race to the Top for Emerging Democracies”

CONTEXT: As a new wave of democratization spreads across the world, the Community of Democracies (CD) is working to support successful transitions to democracy. During the upcoming Community of Democracies 6th Ministerial in Vilnius, Lithuania, the organization will launch a new initiative, the Democracy Partnership Challenge, to encourage and support reforms in countries that have experienced recent democratic breakthroughs. The Democracy Partnership Challenge creates a global “race to the top,” which seeks to facilitate progress by leveraging the resources and expertise of countries within the CD to assist those that have demonstrated the will to democratize, but who need external support to consolidate their gains.

OUTCOMES

Moldova and Tunisia selected as the first winners of the Democracy Partnership Challenge. After a rigorous review process, Moldova and Tunisia have been selected as the countries to inaugurate the Challenge. Both have demonstrated a strong commitment to strengthening democracy, and their governments are eager to work with partners to build on their progress.

Moldova takes an introspective look at the state of its democracy. The democratic leadership of Moldova is committed to carrying out fundamental reforms which continue the country’s transition to a European democracy, including ensuring a separation of powers, an independent judiciary, and respect for human rights and freedom of the media. In its application, Moldova requested small amounts of assistance in the areas to bolster its efforts in the areas of security sector reform, government transparency, decentralization, migration policies, and judicial reform.

Tunisia looks forward and identifies areas in which small amounts of assistance will have a critical impact. The new Tunisian leadership is dedicated to essential reforms that will ensure the stability and longevity of their new democracy. In their application the Tunisians specifically sought assistance from the Community of Democracies to reform public administration, the security sector and the judiciary, support regional development, and promote the role of civil society to succeed in their transition to a democratic state.

The Community of Democracies calls upon countries to “Pay it Forward.” Two task forces are being established to channel resources and expertise to the priorities that have been designated by Tunisia and Moldova. As President Obama recently announced in Warsaw, the United States will co-chair the Moldova task force with Poland. Countries represented at the Ministerial have come through transitions of their own and each has had help in overcoming immense challenges. During the Ministerial, countries committed to the success of Moldova and Tunisia’s transitions will be asked to join the task forces, dig deep in support of these new democracies, and repay the help they have all received along the way.

 


Fact Sheet: Joint Statement on the Rights of LGBT Persons at the Human Rights Council

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC

At the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva 85 countries joined a Joint Statement entitled “Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based On Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” This follows previous statements on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons issued at the United Nations, including a 2006 statement by 54 countries at the Human Rights Council, and a 2008 statement that has garnered 67 countries’ support at the General Assembly. The United States is amongst the signatory states to both previous efforts. The United States co-chaired the core group of countries that have worked to submit this statement, along with Colombia and Slovenia.

Key facts about the new statement:

A core group of over 30 countries engaged in discussions and sought signatures from other UN member states for the statement. In many places, United States diplomats joined diplomats from other states for these conversations.
This statement adds new references not seen in previous LGBT statements at the UN, including: welcoming attention to LGBT issues as a part of the Universal Periodic Review process, noting the increased attention to LGBT issues in regional human rights fora, encouraging the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue addressing LGBT issues, and calls for states to end criminal sanctions based on LGBT status.
20 countries joined this statement that were neither signatory to the 2006 or 2008 statements.
The statement garnered support from every region of the world, including 21 signatories from the Western Hemisphere, 43 from Europe, 5 from Africa, and 16 from the Asia/Pacific region.
The full list of signatories and text of the statement follows:

Joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation & gender identity

Delivered by Colombia on behalf of: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the former-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Venezuela

1. We recall the previous joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, presented at the Human Rights Council in 2006;

2. We express concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity brought to the Council’s attention by Special Procedures since that time, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions;

3. We recall the joint statement in the General Assembly on December 18, 2008 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, supported by States from all five regional groups, and encourage States to consider joining the statement;

4. We commend the attention paid to these issues by international human rights mechanisms including relevant Special Procedures and treaty bodies and welcome continued attention to human rights issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity within the context of the Universal Periodic Review. As the United Nations Secretary General reminded us in his address to this Council at its Special Sitting of 25 January 2011, the Universal Declaration guarantees all human beings their basic rights without exception, and when individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the international community has an obligation to respond;

5. We welcome the positive developments on these issues in every region in recent years, such as the resolutions on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity adopted by consensus in each of the past three years by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, the initiative of the Asia-Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions to integrate these issues within the work of national human rights institutions in the region, the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the increasing attention being paid to these issues by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the many positive legislative and policy initiatives adopted by States at the national level in diverse regions;

6. We note that the Human Rights Council must also play its part in accordance with its mandate to “promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without discrimination of any kind, and in a fair and equal manner” (GA 60/251, OP 2);

7. We acknowledge that these are sensitive issues for many, including in our own societies. We affirm the importance of respectful dialogue, and trust that there is common ground in our shared recognition that no-one should face stigmatisation, violence or abuse on any ground. In dealing with sensitive issues, the Council must be guided by the principles of universality and non-discrimination;

8. We encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to explore opportunities for outreach and constructive dialogue to enhance understanding and awareness of these issues within a human rights framework;

9. We recognise our broader responsibility to end human rights violations against all those who are marginalised and take this opportunity to renew our commitment to addressing discrimination in all its forms;

10. We call on States to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, encourage Special Procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders to continue to integrate these issues within their relevant mandates, and urge the Council to address these important human rights issues.

 
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Fact Sheet: Humanitarian Assistance for Libya

In the midst of ongoing violence, the humanitarian situation in Libya is growing more acute. Restricted access and limited information pose distinct challenges, but the United States is actively responding and stands prepared to assist Libya’s people through this turbulent period.

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development has set aside an initial $10 million in emergency assistance to support the efforts of international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the Libyan Red Crescent Society meet the most urgent needs.
  • While our immediate attention is focused on the need to keep medical pipelines well stocked and intact, we are also concerned that the ongoing violence may disrupt distribution networks and lead to food shortages. USAID has therefore conducted an inventory of all U.S. food aid resources in the region and is prepared to divert or dispatch other food stocks to Libya should the need arise.
  • The United States is consulting with the governments of Egypt and Tunisia on how we can assist them and the international community in managing the large numbers of workers fleeing Libya, including through the anticipated immediate dispatch of expert humanitarian teams to Libya’s borders with Tunisia and Egypt.
  • USAID and our State Department’s Bureau for Population, Migration and Refugees continue to work closely with the International Organization for Migration and the UN High Commission for Refugees in order to support their efforts to manage the outflow of workers and refugees.
  • The United States is committed to working with the United Nations, the European Union and other European partners, the Arab League, the African Union and Libya’s neighbors to respond to humanitarian needs.
  • We welcome and will respond to forthcoming appeals from UN agencies and the IOM, and call upon other countries to do the same.
  • We commend the efforts of the Libyan people to tend to the needs of their fellow citizens, and in particular the medical personnel who are treating the wounded.
  • We are deeply concerned about how the current situation is affecting the Libyan people and others in the country and are working intensely with the international community to meet their urgent humanitarian needs.
 
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