Professor Sterio Testifies Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Syria

On June 8, Professor Milena Sterio testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at a hearing titled “The Path Forward On U.S.-Syria Policy: Strategy And Accountability.”

Professor Sterio testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The hearings focused on U.S.-Syria relations, and Professor Sterio’s testimony focused on mechanisms for accountability for atrocities committed by the Syrian government and non-state actors in the ongoing Syrian conflict. She explained that the “atrocities in Syria are among the worst in history,” and include “mass executions, widespread rapes, systematic torture, intentionally targeting hospitals, and repeated use of chemical weapons against civilians.” She described to the Committee various accountability measures that could be pursued, including “prosecutions in the courts of Syria and prosecutions in the national courts of various countries under the principle of universal jurisdiction, to the establishment of a hybrid tribunal for Syria, and prosecutions in the International Criminal Court at The Hague.”

The hearing also featured gripping testimony from a Syrian gravedigger, who appeared at the hearing anonymously in a full body and face covering due to the risk to his life. He testified that he was “witness to mass graves in Syria from 2011 to 2018 where men and women, children and elderly, were tortured, executed, gassed, and bombed by the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia and then callously thrown into trenches, their fate unknown to loved ones.” He described the horrors that he personally witnessed: “Every week, twice a week, three trailer trucks arrived, packed with 300 to 600 bodies of victims of torture, bombardment, and slaughter.”

Professor Sterio with the anonymous Syrian gravedigger, who testified to the atrocities he personally witnessed.

The hearings were live-streamed, and a recording can be viewed here.

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