Washington - The US House of Representatives unanimously passed the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019 to impose new US sanctions on supporters of Syria’s energy, airspace and business sectors, the Foreign Affairs Committee said.

The Act “would require the president to impose new sanctions on anyone who does business with or provides financing to the Government of Syria, including Syrian intelligence and security services, or the Central Bank of Syria; provides aircraft or spare parts for aircraft to Syria’s airlines; is involved with construction and engineering projects controlled by the Syrian government; or supports Syria’s energy industry,” the Committee said on Tuesday.

The legislation has not passed in the Senate with Democrats refusing to take up the vote during the partial US government shutdown.

The White House said in a statement in November that it strongly supports the bill that would deny the Syrian government access to the international financial system and facilitate visa restrictions on Syrian officials. However, in a surprise move last month, US President Donald Trump decided to pull out all US troops from Syria.

The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act is named for the former Syrian military photographer known as “Caesar” who documented the brutality of the Syrian regime. This bill would impose new sanctions on human rights abuses, encourage negotiations, and authorise the State Department to support entities that are collecting and preserving the chain of evidence for eventual prosecution of those committing war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria.

The bill includes provisions to ensure that non-governmental organisations providing assistance to Syria are not inadvertently caught by sanctions, except in the case of a designated terrorist.

Under the bill, the President could waive sanctions on a case-by-case basis. Also, sanctions could be suspended if the parties are engaged in meaningful negotiations and the violence against civilians has ceased. Suspension would be renewable if the suspension is critical to the continuation of negotiations and attacks against civilians have not resumed.

Following the passage of the bill, Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said: “Nothing can undo the horrors [Syrians] have had to endure for nearly eight years. Nothing can bring back those who have been lost. But the world owes it to the living and the dead to try to bring this crisis to an end ... We simply cannot look the other way and allow [Bashar] Al Assad, Russia, and Iran to steamroll over Syria. My bill would give the Administration greater leverage to raise the cost for Al Assad and crack down on his lifelines.”