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Syria: EU approves sanctions on luxury and dual-use goods

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch confirms that Syrian forces have used sexual violence to torture men, women and children – both inside and outside of detention – during the conflict.

A girl stands near a hole in the wall on the second story of her family home near Idlib, Syria, Thursday, June 14
A girl stands near a hole in the wall on the second story of her family home near Idlib, Syria, Thursday, June 14

THE EUROPEAN UNION has today approved sanctions on the exports of luxury and dual-use goods to Syria.

The EU said the sanctions will cover additional equipment, goods and technology that may be used for manufacturing and maintaining “goods that may be used for internal repression”.

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said: ”In the current situation, the EU must keep up the pressure on the Syrian regime. EU sanctions target those responsible for the appalling repression and violence against the civilian population.”

“We have carefully calibrated today’s decisions to avoid affecting the Syrian people. We strongly support them in this time of suffering,” she added.

Widespread sexual violence

Meanwhile, Rights group Human Rights Watch has today confirmed that Syrian forces have used sexual violence to torture men, women and children during the conflict.

The group interviewed 10 former detainees who said they had been sexually abused or had witnessed sexual abuse while in detention. Attacks included rape, penetration with objects, sexual groping, prolonged forced nudity, and electroshock and beatings to genitalia, they said.

Most victims had been detained over their political activism or for attending protests. In some cases the reason for detention was not clear but the detainees suffered the same abuse.

“Sexual violence in detention is one of many horrific weapons in the Syrian government’s torture arsenal and Syrian security forces regularly use it to humiliate and degrade detainees with complete impunity,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The assaults are not limited to detention facilities – government forces and pro-government shabiha militia members have also sexually assaulted women and girls during home raids and residential sweeps.”

Defectors confirm attacks

Human Rights Watch documented over 20 specific incidents of sexual assault (five of which involved more than one victim), interviewed eight Syrian victims of sexual violence, and spoke to more than twenty-five further people with a knowledge of sexual abuse.

Four army and security force defectors also told Human Rights Watch about incidents – five in all – that they were aware of or had received information about in which government forces sexually assaulted women during home raids or detained women to sexually assault them. Three of these defectors described incidents in which women were taken to another location and sexually assaulted.

It noted that the full extent of sexual violence in and outside of detention facilities remains unknown, as the stigma surrounding sexual violence in Syria makes victims reluctant to report abuse.

The types of good falling under the new EU sanctions:

Luxury goods

  • Caviar, truffles, and cigars with a sales price exceeding €10 per item
  • Wines and spirits with a sales price exceeding €50 per litre
  • Leather goods (sales price above €200), garments and shoes (items above €600),
  • Jewellery, gems and pearls
  • Tableware, clocks and watches (above €500)
  • Lead crystal glassware (above €200)
  • Luxury vehicles, planes and boats
  • New vehicles from €25,000

Dual use goods

  • Protection and detection equipment, for example gas masks and protective suits
  • Chemical manufacturing facilities, such as reaction vessels and storage tanks
  • Chemicals that may be used a precursors for toxic chemical agents
  • Human, animal and plant pathogens, ie certain viruses, bacteria and toxins

Dual use goods (subject to authorisation)

  • Further chemicals and toxins
  • Additional laboratory equipment and chemical manufacturing facilities, such as certain valves or vacuum pumps
  • Technology and software required for the development, production or use of goods requiring authorisation for export to Syria

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