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A look back at a decade of war in Syria
02:54 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

The US sanctioned Syrian prisons, Assad regime officials and militia leaders on Wednesday, marking the first time the Biden administration has introduced new sanctions on the country.

“The United States is sanctioning eight Syrian prisons, five Assad regime officials in the institutions that run those facilities, two militia groups and two militia leaders,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in a statement. “These actions underscore the U.S. commitment to promote respect for human rights and accountability for abuse against Syrians.”

One of the prisons was sanctioned for “serious human rights abuse, including torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and extrajudicial executions, since the start of the Syrian crisis,” Blinken said.

The prisons designated today were photographed by a Syrian regime defector, Caesar, who worked as an official photographer for the Syrian military and exposed the regime’s ruthless and cruel treatment of detainees, Blinken said. He also said that the action furthers the goals of legislation which bears the defector’s name – the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019.

The sanctions are part of an effort to “promote accountability for entities and individuals that have perpetuated the suffering of the Syrian people,” Blinken explained.

Blinken said that more “than 14,000 detainees have reportedly died after being tortured at the hands of the Assad regime, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, while 130,000 Syrians are reportedly still missing or detained.”

The Biden administration has maintained the small US military footprint in Syria, and continues to call for a political solution to the more-than-a-decade-long civil war in the country.

“We urge the international community to join our calls for a nationwide ceasefire, the immediate release of those arbitrarily detained, and for information about the fate of the missing. The Assad regime must know that these steps are critical to any lasting peace or economic prosperity in Syria,” Blinken said.