Displaced in Silence
Photo By: Emad Maslamani
SNHR has released a report entitled: “Displaced in Silence” in which the Network sheds light on Khan al Sheeh town which has become another victim of the crime of forced displacement.
The report says that the Syrian regime’s aerial bombardment and land shelling have resulted in killings and massacres that have been ongoing since the very first days of the popular uprising in March 2011 towards freedom, in addition to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of houses. We, at SNHR, believe that this is the main reason that led to forced displacement. The second reason is the regime’s three machine: “Arbitrary arrest, torture, and enforced-disappearance”. The third reason is sexual violence, and the fourth reason is the siege, and then comes several other factors and violations. All of this has paralyzed the society and forced people to flee just to survive. No less than six million Syrian citizens are now IDPs who fled their original places of residence, while nearly seven million Syrians have become refugees abroad.
The report notes that the Syrian regime and its two allies, the Iranian and Russian regimes, are responsible for 85% at least of the forced displacement operations in Syria, followed by ISIS (the self-proclaimed the Islamic State), and then the Democratic Union Party, which is a branch for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Those three parties have displaced most of the IDPs and refugees. According to our periodic studies and reports on the various kinds of violations, we have enough compelling reasons to believe that those parties have practiced displacement in a systematic and widespread manner against civilian residents, which constitutes a blatant violation to the Geneva Conventions, and amounts to a crime against humanity according to Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Moreover, none of these parties had sought measure to provide shelter, health care, or food for the displaced civilians. We can’t justify these displacements by military reasons or for the sake of protecting civilians, as these parties are still banning those who were displaced from returning to their homes, and, on the contrary, those people are facing the threat of being pursued and killed which violates rule 132 of the customary international humanitarian law.
Additionally, the report notes that Some of the displacement operations carried out by the Syrian regime have shown a sectarian nature, while ISIS’s operations exhibited a sectarian nature when the group attacked Christian areas, and an ethnic nature when he displaced Kurds. On the other hand, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party showed an ethnic nature in its operations against Arabs.
The report also acknowledges that some the armed opposition factions’ attacks resulted in displacements, while the international coalition forces’ operations resulted in more displacements.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“Hundreds of thousands of IDPs are living in camps, or in the woods, or in towns and cities that aren’t their original places of residence. Most of these people rely on humanitarian aids, and can’t go back home because of the ongoing bombardment, fear of being arrested, torture, conscription in the Syrian regime’s army and militias. Most of these people are suffering from severe poverty. All of this have resulted in a fragmented society whose heritage is heavily destroyed.”
The report stresses that all the truces and reconciliations were implemented at the expense of the disregarding the international humanitarian law, wherein not even one truce or reconciliation would have been struck, had its rules were considered. All of these so-called truces and reconciliations were implemented under submission and oppression, and through violating the international humanitarian law that manifested in siege, indiscriminate shelling, starvation, obstruction delivering aids and civilians’ movement. The option to accept these truces and reconciliations is the least catastrophic option, as there is, certainly, no willingness or intention to agree on a deal with the ruling regime who violated many of those agreements.
The report primarily outlines the violations of human rights Khan al Sheeh town has been subjected to from March 2011 until November 28, 2016 at the hands of Syrian-Russian alliance.
The report documents the killing of no less than 283 civilians including 58 children and 42 women (adult female) in Khan al Sheeh town. Additionally, the report records seven massacres by Syrian regime forces, and 29 incidents of attack on vital civilian facilities at least.
The report says that Syrian regime forces helicopters dropped no less than 3127 barrel bobs on Khan al Sheeh town since March 2011, while Syrian-Russia alliance forces used incendiary weapons 3 times and cluster munitions 6 times at least.
The report also talks about the fallout of the siege and the shortage of food and medications, noting that 12 individuals, including one woman, were killed by Syrian regime forces as they were trying to flee the siege.
The report records that no less than 289 individuals, including 4 children and 5 women (adult female), of Khan al Sheeh residents are still under arrest or forcibly-disappeared in the period of time covered by the report.
The report says that as a result of these systematic, widespread violations, the town reached a full state of drain that forced it to agree to the settlement that was proposed by Syrian authorities for armed opposition factions in the town. The agreement was signed on November 26, 2016, and the execution of the agreement’s provisions commenced on November 28, 2016, which stated that no less than 3500 individuals, armed opposition fighters and their families, would leave the town for Idlib governorate, while the rest of the civilians would have their situation settled. The agreement included a number of towns in Western Ghouta (Zakiya, Deir Khabiya, and al Kiswa).
The report says that the international humanitarian law explicitly prohibits forced displacement, despite some conditional exceptions, declaring that any violation to its rules in that regard is considered a war crime. Also, Articles (8-2-b-vii) and (8-2-e-viii) of Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court both state the same.
The report notes that forced displacement constitutes a war crimes in non-international armed conflicts. When carried out as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian residents, forced displacement constitute a serious violation to Geneva Convention, and can be also considered crimes against humanity according to Article (7-1-d) of Rome Statute, and rules 129,130,131,132, and 133 of the customary international humanitarian law. The Syrian regime’s actions in al Wa’er neighborhood were part of a systematic, deliberate, and widespread attack through informed strategies. Therefore, these actions constitute crimes against humanity. And seeing it was perpetrated in the context of an internal armed conflict, they also constitute war crimes.
The report calls on the Security Council to bind the Syrian regime to cease the resettlement operations that re being carried out in the cities and neighborhoods whose residents have been displaced. And insure the right of return for the refugees and IDPs, and the right to reacquire all of their lands and properties. Additionally, the report calls on the Security Council to instill peace and security in Syria.
The report calls on the Syrian government not only to end its forced displacement operations, but to prevent its occurrence, and to protect residents from such operations rather than being the one who carries out these operations.
The report urges the Human Rights Council and the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights to focus more on forced displacements and its dangers in Syria, and condemn the practices of the Syrian regime and all who are involved in this regard.