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EXPRESSING THE GRAVE CONCERN OF CONGRESS REGARDING THE CONTINUING GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES OF THE SYRIAN AND LEBANESE PEOPLE BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC; AND EXPRESSING THE GRAVE CONCERN OF CONGRESS REGARDING THE OCCUPATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LEBANON BY THE SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2, 2005

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

AND CENTRAL ASIA,
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,

Washington, DC. The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 1:17 p.m., in room 2255, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Chair of the Subcommittee) presiding.

Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN. We are convening to mark up the following resolutions, and I thank the wonderful Subcommittee Members. You guys are so patient with me. House Concurrent Resolution 18, Expressing the great concerns of Congress regarding the continuing gross violations of human rights and civil liberties of the Syrian and Lebanese people by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic; and House Concurrent Resolution 32, Expressing the grave concerns of Congress regarding the occupation of the Republic of Lebanon by the Syrian Arab Republic.

Since these two resolutions are interrelated, I will discuss both at this point and ask my colleagues to give their opening remarks on both items now as well prior to my calling them up formally for the markup.

[H. Con. Res. 18 and H. Con. Res. 32 follow:]

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IV

109TH CONGRESS

1ST SESSION

H. CON. RES. 18

Expressing the grave concern of Congress regarding the continuing gross

violations of human rights and civil liberties of the Syrian and Lebanese people by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

JANUARY 6, 2005 Ms. Ros-LEHTINEN (for herself and Mr. ENGEL) submitted the following con

current resolution; which was referred to the Committee on International Relations

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION Expressing the grave concern of Congress regarding the con

tinuing gross violations of human rights and civil liberties of the Syrian and Lebanese people by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Whereas the Syrian Arab Republic is governed by an authori

tarian regime which continues to commit serious human rights abuses, including the use of torture and arbitrary arrest and detention;

Whereas the Department of State's Country Reports on

Human Rights Practices for 2003 states that Syria “significantly restricts freedom of speech and of the press”, that "freedom of assembly does not exist under the law", and that "the Government restricted freedom of association”;

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Whereas Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.";

Whereas Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights states “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”;

Whereas Syria's September 2001 press law permits the gov

ernment to arbitrarily deny or revoke publishing licenses for vague reasons and compels media to submit all mate

rial to government censors; Whereas Syrian authorities have arrested, or, in the case of

foreigners, expelled journalists for writing critically about Syria's policies;

Whereas Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International

have reported that the security forces of Syria are targeting emerging Syrian human rights organizations, as well as their attorneys, in an apparent attempt to intimidate those organizations;

Whereas on March 8, 2004, Syrian security forces arrested

more than 30 human rights dissidents and civilians at a sit-in in front of the parliament;

Whereas a United States diplomat who was watching the

peaceful demonstrations was also arrested and held for an hour in what the United States called an unacceptable violation of diplomatic practice and which the United States protested "in the strongest terms";

Whereas Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights states “All are equal before the law and are enti

•HCON 18 IH

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tled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.";

Whereas the criminal law of Syria provides for reduced sen

tences in cases of “honor” killings, and spousal rape is not illegal;

Whereas the infringement by Syria on human rights and civil

liberties extends into the Lebanese Republic, which it continues to occupy in violation of United Nations Secu

rity Council resolutions; Whereas Human Rights Watch, in its 2003 World Report,

stated that “political activists in Lebanon continued to demand the withdrawal of all Syrian forces from the country and organized demonstrations throughout the year, many of which the internal security forces dispersed forcibly";

Whereas hundreds of Lebanese civilians are believed to have

been killed or “disappeared” by Syrian occupation forces or its secret police;

Whereas hundreds of Kurdish civilians were injured or killed

in clashes with the Syrian authorities that began on March 12, 2004, in Qamishli, a city in northeastern Syria and, according to Syrian Kurdish sources, security forces used live ammunition against unarmed civilians;

Whereas Syrian authorities are attempting to imprison

Aktham Naisse, Syria's leading human rights activist, who has been charged with spreading false information, forming an underground association with links to international human rights groups, and opposing the ruling Baath party;

Whereas in November 2004, upon his release from prison,

Kamal Labwani, a 48-year-old physician in Syria, stated

.HCON 18 IH

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that there are at least 400 political prisoners in Syria,

100 of whom have been jailed for at least 20 years; Whereas Mr. Labwani urged “all defenders of freedom and

human rights, whether individuals, associations, bodies or international, Arab, or local organizations to participate with us in this campaign to call for the immediate release of all political prisoners and detainees of opinion and conscience”;

Whereas in November 2004, Syrian journalist Louai Hussein

was banned from writing by the Syrian Interior Min

istry's political security office; Whereas the arrest in Germany in November 2004 of a Syr

ian embassy official for espionage and issuing threats against the Syrian opposition in Europe is being cited as an example of a campaign reportedly launched by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, aimed at intimidating the regime's opposition abroad; and

Whereas human rights and democracy groups in Syria have

sponsored a petition urging greater freedoms and the release of all political prisoners, which has garnered more than 6,000 signatures: Now, therefore, be it

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