Including 225 At the Hands of the International Coalition Forces
SNHR has published its periodic death toll report for the month of July 2017 in which it documented the killing of 814 civilians at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria.
The report sheds light on the de-escalation zones agreement that went into effect on May 6, 2017, after it was announced at the end of the fourth round of negotiations that was held between Russian, Turkish, and Iranian representatives, who attended as the sponsoring states of Ankara Ceasefire Agreement. The agreement establishes four de-escalation zones that will see cessation of combat operation, and passage of humanitarian aids, while the IDPs are allowed to go back to these areas. The areas, as outlined by the agreement, are: Idlib governorate and the surrounding areas (parts of Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia governorates), northern Homs governorate, Eastern Ghouta, and parts of Daraa and al Quneitra governorates in the southern parts of Syria, provided that an expert committee will accurately assign the borders of these areas at a later date.
The report also notes that an extensive round of talk that commenced in May 2017 in the Amman, Jordan’s capital, between Russia, USA, and Jordan was followed by an announcement by the American and Russian presidents, on the sidelines of the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg, that a ceasefire agreement has been reached in southwestern Syria – Daraa, Quneitra, and Suwayda governorates. The agreement went into force at 12:00 on Sunday July 9, 2017, and provided for the passage of humanitarian aids in addition to a ceasefire between the conflicting parties (Syrian regime forces and their allies on one side, and armed opposition factions on the other side). Also, the agreement specifies that maintaining security in this region is the Russian forces’ responsibility in coordination with the Americans and Jordanians.
The report notes that the de-escalation agreements reflected on the civilians’ lives in the included areas which saw a relatively noticeable and good decrease in killing rates compared with the previous months since March 2011, where we recorded last month a 69% decline in the rates of killings at the hands of the Syrian-Russian alliance throughout Syria from last April, which reflected on the living aspects of civilians who live in the areas that were included in the agreement, as patients were able to go to hospitals and medical points, and many children went back to school after their families prevented them out of fear for their lives in light of the repeated bombing that targeted schools, as well as hospitals. Markets became more active, and many infrastructure services were restored thanks to a number of maintenance campaigns. Nonetheless, breaches didn’t stop, mainly by the Syrian regime, who is seemingly the party that would be most affected should the ceasefire go on, and in particular extrajudicial killing crimes and, more horrendously, deaths due to torture. This strongly asserts that there is a ceasefire of some sort on the table, but the crimes that the international community -especially the sponsoring parties- won’t see are still going on as nothing had happened.
We haven’t seen a significant drop in civilian death numbers compared with last June, while we recorded that the percentage of children and women victims increased by 11% in comparison with last month, 52% in July and 41% in June, which suggests that the parties to the conflict are deliberately targeting civilians. We recorded a 80% drop in civilian killings at the hands of the Syrian regime in July in the governorates that were included in South Syria Agreement, compared with last month, as the agreement went into effect in July.
Furthermore, the report notes that SNHR team encounters difficulties in documenting victims from armed opposition factions as many of those victims are killed on battlefronts and not inside cities. Also, we aren’t able to obtain details such as names, pictures and other important details on account of the armed opposition forces’ unwillingness to reveal such information for security concerns among other reasons. Therefore, the actual number of victims is much greater than what is being recorded.
On the other side, the report stresses that it is almost impossible to access information about victims from Syrian regime forces or from ISIS and the margin of error is considerably higher due to the lack of any applicable methodology in this type of documentation. The Syrian government and ISIS don’t publish, reveal, or record their victims. From our perspective, the statistics published by some groups on this category of victims are fictitious and are not based on any actual data.
Therefore, the report only incudes civilian victims who were killed by all parties and compare them.
The report records that 6,431 civilians have been killed from the start of 2017 until August at the hands of the parties to the conflict. Furthermore, the report outlines the death toll of July 2017, as the report says that 248 civilians were killed by Syrian regime forces, including 62 children (two children are killed every day on average) and 33 women (adult female). Additionally, among the victims were 18 civilians who died due to torture.
The report notes that forces we believe are Russian killed 44 civilians including nine children and 10 women.
Additionally, the report documented the killing of 59 civilians at the hands of the Kurdish Self-management forces including 11 children and nine women.
The report documents that 96 civilians were killed by extremist Islamic groups. Of those, ISIS killed 91 civilians, including 24 children and 11 women, while Fateh al sham Front killed five civilians including one child.
Also, the report says that armed opposition factions killed 23 civilians including four children and six women.
In addition, the report records that 225 civilians, including 70 children and 45 women, were killed by the international coalition forces in July 2017.
The report documents that 119 civilians, including 30 children and 12 women, have either died drowning as they were fleeing by sea or in bombings that SNHR hasn’t been able to identify its perpetrators, as of this writing, or by bullets or landmines that we couldn’t determine their source, or by Turkish, Jordanian, or Lebanese forces.
The report says that SNHR hopes that the de-escalation zones agreement sees a good commitment, so it becomes a stronger foundation on which a political process would be built that would fulfil justice for the victims, and hold all the perpetrators accountable for their violations; most pressingly the party that was primarily responsible for the dire situation that Syria have come into: the current ruling regime who has perpetrated roughly 90% of all violations against the Syrian people.
The report emphasizes that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have violated the international human rights law which guarantees the right to life. Furthermore, evidences and proofs, according to hundreds of eyewitnesses’ accounts, suggest that 90% at least of the widespread and single attacks were directed against civilians and civilian facilities.
The report adds that international coalition forces have perpetrated crimes of extrajudicial killing that qualify as war crimes. Additionally, Self-Management forces, ISIS, Fateh al Sham Front, and some armed opposition factions have committed war crimes through the crime of extrajudicial killing.
The report calls on the Security Council and the relevant international entities to uphold their responsibilities in relation to the crimes of killing that is being perpetrated ceaselessly and to apply pressure on the Syrian government to stop the deliberate and indiscriminate shelling against civilians.
Finally, the report considers the Russian regime, all Shiite militias, and ISIS as foreign parties that are effectively involved in the killings and holds all of these parties and the financiers and supports of the Syrian regime legally and judicially responsible.