Including 14 Massacres at the Hands of International Coalition Forces
SNHR has published its monthly report documenting the massacres perpetrated by the parties to the conflict for the month of July.
The report highlights the de-escalation agreement in Syria, which commenced on May 6, 2017, after it was announced at the end of the fourth round of Astana talks which was held between representatives from Russia, Turkey, and Iran as the states that sponsored Ankara Ceasefire agreement. The agreement outlined four major de-escalation areas, where a cessation of combat operations will take place in these areas, humanitarian aids will be delivered, and IDPs residents will be allowed a return to these areas. These areas, as specified 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. It was provided that an expert committee would accurately assign the borders of said zones 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 adds that since the agreement went into effect, the included areas saw a relatively noticeable and good decrease in killing rates compared with the previous months since March 2011. 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 -particularly the sponsoring states- won’t see are still going on as nothing had changed.
The report notes that there haven’t been any drops in the number of massacres perpetrated by Syrian regime forces and international coalition forces in July in comparison to what has been recorded in June.
The report contains an account for one survivor. Furthermore, the reports sheds light on the high documentation standards incorporated in the report, which rely on direct accounts from survivors or victims’ families and local media activists. In addition, we have analyzed the pictures and videos and some medical records we received. We have all the pictures and videos that are mentioned in this report in a secret online database, and backup copies on hard drives. Certainly, we can’t claim that we have documented all cases in light of the ban and pursuit by Syrian regime forces and other armed groups.
As a result of these challenges, the type and number of evidence vary from one case to another. In light of the challenges we mentioned above, many of the incidents’ legal description change based on new evidences or clues that surface after we had released the report. We add these evidences and clues to our data archive. On the other hand, many incidents don’t constitute a violation to the international humanitarian law, but it involved collateral damages, so we record and archive these incidents to know what happened historically and to preserve it as a national record. However, we don’t describe it as massacres.
The report records no less than 216 massacres perpetrated by the parties to the conflict in Syria since the start of 2017. Moreover, the report outlines the toll of massacres in July 2017, as 28 massacres were documented. The report describes an incident as a massacre if it involves the killing of five peaceful individuals at once. Based on this report, Syrian regime forces perpetrated 10 massacres in July, coming second after international coalition forces who perpetrated 14 massacres, while Russian forces committed three massacres. In addition, other parties were responsible for one massacre.
According to the report, Syrian regime forces perpetrated five massacres in Deir Ez-Zour, two in Raqqa, one in Damascus suburbs, one in Hama, and one in Suwayda. Russian forces perpetrated two massacres in Raqqa and one in Damascus suburbs, while international coalition forces perpetrated nine massacres in Raqqa, three in Hasaka, and tow in Deir Ez-Zour. Finally, one massacre was committed in Idlib by other parties.
According to the victim documentation team at SNHR, 264 individuals were killed in these massacres including 106 children and 55 women (adult female) which suggests that 61% of the victims were women and children. This considerably high percentage is an indication that civilians were targeted in most of these massacres.
The report breaks down the victim toll of July’s massacre, where Syrian regime forces killed 95 individuals, including 43 children and 19 women, while Russian forces killed 30 civilians, including six children and eight women. International coalition forces killed 132 civilians, including 57 children and 28 women, whereas seven civilians were killed in the massacre by other parties.
The report stresses that the bombing incidents, whether it was deliberate or indiscriminate, targeted armless civilians, thus, The Syrian-Russian alliance forces have violated the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life. Furthermore, these violations were perpetrated during a non-international armed conflict which amount to war crimes as all elements of a war crime have been fulfilled. In addition, international coalition forces and other parties (includes groups that we weren’t able to identify in addition to Turkish, Lebanese, and Jordanian forces) have committed massacres that constitute war crimes according to the report. However, these crimes are not crimes against humanity as with the case of Syrian regime forces and their pro-regime forces that are committing massacres in a widespread and systematic manner.
Moreover, these attacks, especially bombing, have resulted in collateral damages that involved casualties, injuries, and damages to civil facilities. There are strong indicators that prove that the damage was deeply severe compared to the estimated military benefit. In all of the cases, we couldn’t confirm that there were any military targets before or during these attacks.
Additionally, the magnitude of the massacres, its frequent pattern, the exaggerated use of strength, its military nature, the indiscriminate manner of the bombing, and the coordinated approach of these attacks must be based on high orders, and a state policy.
The report calls for referring the case in Syria to the International Criminal Court and stop the disrupting of the decisions that must be adopted by the Security Council against the Syrian government. This disruption is a wrong message to all dictatorships around the world and supports the culture of crime. Also, immediate sanctions must be imposed on all individuals involved in widespread human rights violations.
Moreover, the report calls for binding the Syrian government to allow all relief and human rights organizations to enter Syria as well as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and journalists and let them work without any obstructions.
The report emphasizes that all militias that are fighting with the Syrian government and have committed widespread massacres such as Iranian militias, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, other Shiite brigades, National Defense Army, and “Shabiha”, must be listed on the international list of terrorist organizations.
Finally, the report calls for the implementation of “Responsibility to Protect” norm which was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, in Syria as it is direly needed there.