Syrian sanctions tightened as violence continues

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) stands next to Defence Minister Dawoud Rajha (right) during a ceremony in October 2011 Keystone

In response to worsening security conditions for civilians in Syria, Switzerland has again toughened sanctions against the Middle Eastern country, targeting any military, financial or technical services which could be used to repress the people.

This content was published on July 18, 2012 - 13:55
swissinfo.ch and agencies

The economics ministry said on Wednesday it had undertaken a “total revision” of sanctions imposed to date and had added several people and companies to the list of those banned from entering or doing business with Switzerland.

In particular, Bouthaina Shaaban, political and media advisor to President Bashar al-Assad is now subject to Swiss sanctions, as well as the defence and interior ministries, the National Security Office and state radio and television broadcasters.

The Syria International Islamic Bank (SIIB) is also targeted, as are all banking relations with Syria. Previously, Swiss financial institutions were barred only from establishing new business with Syrian banks.

Switzerland had previously announced sanctions against al-Assad and members of his family and close entourage, including the freezing of assets and restrictions on travel. To date, some SFr70 million ($72.6 million) in Syrian assets have been frozen and financial and travel sanctions applied to more than 128 people and 42 businesses linked to the Syrian regime.

Deadly attacks

The revision of Swiss sanctions comes as fighting in al-Assad’s stronghold of Damascus entered its fourth day.

On Wednesday, three top regime figures were killed in a suspected suicide attack at national security headquarters in Damascus.

The victims included defence minister Dawoud Rajha and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, who was deputy defence minister, as well as the chief of Assad's crisis team.

Following Wednesday's bombing, the Syrian government has vowed to crack down on what it describes as "armed terrorists".

The attack prompted the United Nations Security Council to delay a vote on a Western-sponsored resolution calling for tougher sanctions on Damascus.

But Russia and China are firmly against harsher measures, which could also allow the use of force to end the 17-month conflict between Assad's goverment and rebel forces.

The mandate for a UN observer mission to Syria runs out on Friday.

Syrian crisis

The Syrian revolt began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests, but a government crackdown led many in the opposition to take up arms. The uprising has since mutated into a civil war. 

In a speech on June 26, the Syrian president said the country was now "at war" and that all sectors of the government and country must devote their energies to the war effort.

  

The United Nations has said more than 10,000 people have been killed by Syrian government forces – activists say 14,000 - while Syria has said at least 2,600 members of the military and security forces have been killed by "Islamist terrorists". 

The UN says 96,000 refugees have fled the conflict in Syria to neighbouring countries. This figure is expected to double by the end of 2012; some 1.5 million people need humanitarian assistance inside the country.

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