US imposes visa sanction on Syrian military official over massacre that killed at least 41 unarmed civilians | CNN Politics

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CNN
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The US State Department on Monday imposed a visa sanction on a Syrian military official whom it says killed at least 41 unarmed civilians in a neighborhood of Damascus in April 2013.

Amjad Yousef, a military intelligence officer for the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and his immediate family will be blocked from entering the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Video evidence of the massacre in Tadamon, which Blinken described as being “carried out coldly and methodically,” publicly emerged in 2022 “after a long and comprehensive investigation by independent researchers.”

“Today, we are taking action to promote accountability for this atrocity,” the top US diplomat said.

The announcement of the visa restriction comes as a growing number of countries have renewed at least some level of contact directly with the Assad regime, particularly in the wake of last month’s devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

“The footage of this massacre, coupled with the ongoing killing and abuse of countless Syrians, serves as a sobering reminder for why countries should not normalize relations with the Assad regime absent enduring progress towards a political resolution,” Blinken said.

“The United States calls on the Assad regime to cease all violations and abuses of human rights, including but not limited to extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture,” he said.

Blinken noted that March “marks the twelfth year of conflict in Syria during which the Assad regime has committed innumerable atrocities, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

In an April 2022 article published in “New Lines Magazine,” the two researchers who helped expose the massacre said that the videos, which were “already shocking for their atrociousness, stand out in their brevity and callousness among the thousands of hours of footage that we have examined throughout our respective careers as researchers of mass violence and genocide in Syria and elsewhere.”

“Particularly shocking about the Tadamon videos is the fact that the intelligence officers who committed the massacre were on duty and in uniform; they report to President Bashar al-Assad himself, and yet they chose to show their faces in the incriminating footage. At several points during the video, they looked straight into the camera seemingly relaxed and smiling. In documenting their own actions, they used HD video quality,” Annsar Shahhoud and Uğur Ümit Üngör wrote.

Yousef, the official who was sanctioned by the State Department Tuesday, “is focused, stoic and precise, and he works efficiently toward completing the task within a matter of 25 minutes,” the researchers wrote.

“After a few months, we confronted him with the massacre and let him know that we had seen the footage,” the researchers described.

“First, he denied it was him in the video. Then, he said he was just arresting someone,” they wrote. “Finally, he settled on the justification that it was his job and expressed his content: ‘I am proud of my deeds.’”

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