WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday introduced a privileged resolution to require U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to detail the extent of Turkey’s human rights abuses in Syria. The effort sets up a fast-tracked debate and vote in the Senate to assess the U.S.-Turkey relationship based on Ankara’s human rights record.
The senators’ resolution comes as a direct result of Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria and its campaign to clear out Kurds from the border region, which has resulted in numerous reports of horrific human rights abuses against innocent civilians. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently stated that some of these abuses might be war crimes – an assessment echoed by President Trump’s Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey. Nevertheless, President Trump has insisted on kowtowing to Ankara despite its aggressive behavior in the region, dramatic backsliding of democracy, and increasingly warming relationship with Russia.
“The current crisis in Syria is of President Trump's making, and the risk for real human rights abuses there is real and urgent. This resolution will force the administration to get serious about tracking potential human rights violations and making sure humanitarian aid is reaching the places it’s desperately needed. This is the least we can do to start mitigating this disaster we caused,” Murphy said.
“Not only was Turkey’s invasion of Syria to attack our Kurdish partners an unconscionable act of brutality against U.S. partners, it also handed Russia full control over the situation in Syria. As President Erdogan continues down a path to make Turkey an irresponsible actor on the world stage, an unreliable partner to NATO, and an ally of our adversaries, the United States Congress has a responsibility to act.” Menendez said. “That is why we are introducing this new legislation today. There must be a full accounting by Turkey of these atrocities. For years, the world held out hope that Turkey, the bridge between the east and west, could be a democracy in Europe and a responsible actor on the world stage. Sadly, the time has come for us to take special measures seeing as we are furthest from that dream than we’ve ever been.”
The senators’ resolution invokes statutory authority under section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) to require the Secretary of State to assess and report to the Congress on Turkey’s potential human rights abuses in Syria. Consequently, the resolution requests:
- All available credible information concerning alleged violations of internationally recognized human rights by the Government of Turkey, its armed forces, and associated groups and persons, in Syria;
- A description of the steps the U.S. has taken to promote Turkey’s respect of human rights in its Syria operations;
- An assessment whether extraordinary circumstances require a continuation of U.S. security assistance to Turkey, and whether such assistance will be used in Syria;
- Whether Turkey’s actions have resulted in the release of ISIS or other extremists;
- Efforts by U.S. officials to convince Turkey to cease operations in Syria;
- An additional request (permitted by the FAA) for a determination whether Turkey’s purchase and acceptance of delivery of the Russian S-400 missile system is a violation of CAATSA.
- A description of any actions by the Government of Turkey to forcibly repatriate Syrian refugees; and
- An assessment of whether the Government of Turkey is blocking humanitarian aid from reaching communities in need of assistance in northeast Syria.
Such a Resolution of Request receives expedited consideration in the Senate; if it passes the Senate, the Secretary of State is required to produce the report in 30 days – no House action is necessary, according to the statute. If the deadline is missed, delivery of all security assistance (defined as arms sales, military and other forms of training) stops until the report is delivered. This is the same mechanism Murphy used in introducing his privileged resolution with U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), to force a vote on the U.S.-Saudi security relationship.
A copy of the senators’ resolution can be found HERE.