5,233 Civilians Killed, Including 1,417 children and 886 women
Photo by: Russian Ministry of Defense
SNHR has released a report on the second anniversary of the Russian intervention in Syria, which documents the most notable violations by Russian forces since September 30, 2015.
The report says that Russian forces have, since September 2015, carried out hundreds of unjustified attacks that resulted in serious material and human losses that concentrated mostly on areas under the control of armed opposition factions at a percentage of approximately 85% of all attacks, while the remainder of attacks, at 15%, were in ISIS-held areas, and even in these areas, we recorded tens of incidents where civilian sites were bombed that resulted in massacres against the residents of these areas.
The report sheds light on the cessation of hostilities agreements, which were a highlight of the era of the Russian intervention, in February 2016, and also the agreement that evacuated eastern Aleppo city in December 2016. The report notes that following their success in retaking eastern Aleppo, with the on-ground support of Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias, Russia moved to hold negotiations and establish agreements, as Russia was one of the sponsoring parties to Astana Talks in May 2017. And on July 9, 2017, Russia was the primary sponsor for the South Syria agreement, as well as other local agreements that were struck in armed opposition factions-held areas, such as the de-escalation agreement in Eastern Ghouta on July 22, 2017, and another de-escalation agreement in northern suburbs of Homs and southern suburbs of Hama in August 2017.
The report notes the significant drop in rates of bombings, destruction, and violence following the de-escalation agreement’s commencement on May 6, 2017, which reflected on the lives of the residents, as medical and educational facilities have been rebuilt and rehabilitated, and many children reenrolled in schools after their families refrained from letting them go, fearing that they might be killed. Also, markets have gotten more lively and vital. That is, until September 19, 2017, when the Syrian-Russian alliance started an offensive by carrying out heavy airstrikes on Idlib suburbs in retaliation of the factions’ advancement in areas in northern suburbs of Hama. We have monitored the violations by the Syrian-Russian alliance over the course of the first week of that offensive, as we believe these violations threaten Astana path and agreements in light of targeting military bases for opposition factions that were part of Astana Talks.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“The Russian command’s goal in its excessive, destructive bombardment operations in several Syrian cities and towns and in this Grozny-esque bombardment is to acquire a declaration of submission from the Syrian people to accept that Bashar al Assad regime is to stay in power, after they raise the white flags in the face of the barbarian hordes of Russian forces. We don’t believe that the Russian command is serious in any negotiations, Geneva or Astana, which is only reflected in the size, magnitude, and scale, of the killings and destructions at the hands of its forces.”
The report records that Russian forces have carried out indiscriminate attacks and expanded on the use of cluster munitions, incendiary weapons, and concrete-piercing missiles. In addition, Russian forces supported the Syrian regime in its Khan Sheikoun chemical attack, where their airstrikes targeted hospitals and emergency centers that treated some of the injured.
The report emphasizes that Russia sponsored agreement that caused forced displacement in conjunction with executing truces and settlements in which Russia was sponsor and a guarantor such as the evacuation agreement in Aleppo’s eastern neighborhoods on December 13, 2016, and al Wa’er neighborhood in Homs city on March 13, 2017.
The report includes This report contains 14 accounts that were collected through speaking directly with eyewitnesses, and are not cited from any open sources, in addition to analyzing the videos and pictures that were posted on the internet, and the ones sent by local activists via e-mail, Skype, or social media. Some of the videos published by activists show the location of the attacks, the dead bodies, the injured, and the huge destruction in the aftermath of the bombardment, in addition to other pictures that show Russian cluster remnants and incendiary weapons shells.
According to the report, a number of points were taking into consideration in assigning responsibility for specific attacks to Russian forces in light of extraordinary difficulties in the course of the documentation process, seeing that the Syrian regime possesses Russian-made weapons and ammunitions, as information and confessions revealed by official Russian media outlets were cross-examined with what has been documented on the ground, in addition to relying on a large number of accounts from observatories that monitor warplanes movements and pinpoint the military airbase from which the warplane took off. Additionally, the destructive power of the Russian attacks and the capability of bombing at night were taking into consideration as well.
The report documents the toll of human rights violations by Russian forces over the course of two years between September 30, 2015 and September 30, 2017. According to the report, Russian forces have killed 5,233 civilians, including 1,417 children and 886 women (adult female), and perpetrated 251 massacres.
Furthermore, the report records no less than 707 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including 109 on mosques, 143 on educational facilities, and 119 on medical facilities.
The report also notes that Russian forces have used cluster munitions 212 times, mostly in Idlib governorate, while incendiary ammunition were used 105 times, mostly in Aleppo governorate.
The report adds that Russian forces have killed 47 medical personnel, including eight women, 24 civil defense personnel, and 16 media activists.
Finally, the report notes that Russian attacks have forced no less than 2.3 million out of their homes, who fled the bombardment and destruction.
The report stresses that the Russian regime has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both state that indiscriminate attacks must be halted. Also, The Russian regime has violated Article 8 of Rome Statute through the act of willful killing which constitutes war crimes.
The report adds that the bombardment has targeted armless civilians. Therefore, the Russian forces have violated the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life. Additionally, these violations were perpetrated in a non-international armed conflict which amount to a war crime where all elements were fulfilled.
The report calls for launching investigations regarding the incidents included in this report and then, making the findings of these investigations public for the Syrian people, and holding the people involved accountable. Also, the damaged facilities and centers should be compensated, rebuilt, and rehabilitated, and all the wounded and victims’ families, who were killed by the Russian regime, should be compensated.
The report also calls on the Security Council Resolution to take additional steps after Resolution 2254 was adopted, which states: “Demands that all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such, including attacks against medical facilities and personnel, and any indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment.”
The report also calls for the referral of the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and all those who are responsible must be held accountable including the Russian regime whose involvement in war crimes has been proven. Also, security and peace must be instilled in Syria, and the Reasonability to Protect norm must be implemented in order to protect the lives, culture, and history of the Syrian people from being destroyed, looted, and ruined. Additionally, sanctions should be expanded to include the Syrian, Russian, and Iranian regimes who are directly involved in committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people.
The report calls on the United Nations special envoy to Syria to condemn the perpetrators of the crimes, the massacres, and those who were primarily responsible for shattering the de-escalation agreements. And stop liming the Security Council briefings to the violations of al Nussra Front and ISIS.