85 Syrian organizations, including PEL, welcomed the decision of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office to designate the two Syrian armed groups, the Suleiman Shah Brigade (known as al-Amshat) and the Hamza Division (known as al-Hamzat). The undersigned organizations called on the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia to impose similar sanctions on individuals and entities involved in human rights violations in Syria.
The undersigned Syrian organizations welcome the decision of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of 17 August 2023 to designate the two Syrian armed groups, the Suleiman Shah Brigade (known as al-Amshat) and the Hamza Division (known as al-Hamzat). The two groups are connected with serious human rights violations against the Kurdish community in the Afrin region, northern Syria. These violations include abductions, arrests, extortion, rape, torture, and the seizure of land and property.
Additionally, the signatory organizations welcome the U.S. Treasury’s sanctions imposed on leading members of the two designated groups. The Treasury sanctioned Mohammad Hussein al-Jasim (Abu Amsha)—commander of the Suleiman Shah Brigade, Walid Hussein al-Jasim—a younger brother of Abu Amsha who is also assigned a leadership role in the Suleiman Shah Brigade, and Sayf Boulad Abu Bakr—commander of the Hamza Division. All three leaders are involved in grave human rights abuses. Moreover, the Treasury designated the Türkiye-based al-Safir Oto car dealership, which Abu Amsha allegedly owns in partnership with the commander of the Syrian armed group Ahrar al-Sharqiya, Ahmad Ihsan Fayyad al-Hayes (Abu Hatem Shaqra). Notably, the Treasury has previously designated al-Hayes and his armed group for committing numerous crimes against civilians.
Over the past years, several armed groups affiliated with the Syrian National Army (SNA)—operating under the mantle of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces—have perpetrated systematic and widespread human rights violations in areas under their control with impunity. The groups continue to target the populace in those areas, especially the local communities in Afrin, Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê, and Tell Abyad, which are under Türkiye’s direct control. These violations have been documented by several credible Syrian and international organizations and corroborated by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic in its periodic reports.
Considering this, the undersigned organizations call for widening the scope of sanctions to cover other armed groups, their commanders, and their affiliates who have been corroborated as having committed grave violations. Moreover, the organizations demand that concerned entities press Türkiye, as the party in control of these armed groups and as an occupying power, to bear its responsibilities and thus guarantee the safety and well-being of civilians and maintain law and order.
Furthermore, the signatory organizations demand that:
- The United Nations Security Council take all necessary measures to protect civilians in Afrin, Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê, and Tell Abyad, across the northern regions, and throughout Syria. The council shall also act to halt the processes of demographic change and the seizure of property and to ensure the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of residents to their home areas.
- War crimes units in countries whose national laws warrant universal jurisdiction and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) document and collect evidence on human rights violations occurring across northern Syria, especially abuses perpetrated against vulnerable groups and/or on the basis of the victims’ national, ethnic, or religious affiliations.
- The International Commission of Inquiry on Syria issue a special report on human rights violations across northern Syria, including in the Afrin region—the Olive Branch Strip; A’zaz, Jarabulus, and al-Bab—the Euphrates Shield Strip; and Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tell Abyad—the Peace Spring Strip.
Furthermore, the signatory organizations call on the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia to take similar steps, which are prone to advance the course of international litigation, aiming at holding accountable Syrian perpetrators residing in their territories, promoting documentation, accountability, and redress efforts initiated by European and international courts, and contributing to deterring perpetrators and ending impunity.
To read the full statement with the names of the signed organizations, please download the pdf file below: