Including 20 at the Hands of Syrian Regime Forces
SNHR has published its periodic report on victims who died due to torture for the month of October. The report documents that no less than 21 individuals have died due to torture in October.
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 Russian, Turkish, and Iranian representatives as the sponsoring states of Ankara Ceasefire Agreement. Also, the report sheds light on the South Syria Agreement which was announced by the American and Russian presidents, following the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg. The agreement provided for a ceasefire between the conflicting parties in Syria’s south region, governorates of Daraa, Quneitra, and Suwyada, in addition to the passage of humanitarian aids to the areas included in the agreement.
Then, the report talks about other local agreements that have been struck, such as Easstern Ghouta between armed opposition factions in Eastern Ghouta and officials from the Russian side, and a similar agreement in northern suburbs of Homs governorate. However, the texts of these agreements haven’t been made public on Russian government’s websites, and the same for armed opposition factions who didn’t publicize these agreements, except for Failaq al Rahman who published the text of the agreement on their official website. At the end of the agreement, according to the copy on Failaq al Rahman’s website, a signature by a Russian sponsor was shown but without an explicit name, which, as the report notes, helps the sponsoring Russian side to easily dissolve from these agreements with no subsequent political or legal obligations and repercussions.
A de-escalation agreement was signed, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, in Egypt’s capital Cairo on Saturday, July 22, 2017, in Eastern Ghouta following a round of talks between Russian military officials and factions from the armed opposition that took place in Egypt’s capital Cairo. The agreement was to come into effect at 12:00 of the same day, while Failq al Rahman joined the agreement after a representative from the faction signed the agreement with a Russian government representative in Geneva city on Wednesday, August 16, 2017, as the agreement established Failaq al Rahman’s and their areas’ inclusion in the agreement, where it was to come into effect at 21:00 of Friday, August 18, 2017.
The report also sheds light on northern suburbs of Homs and southern suburbs of Hama de-escalation agreement which was signed in Cairo on Monday, July 31, 2017 following a round of talks between armed opposition factions in the area and the Syrian regime represented by the Russian government a sponsoring party, as the agreement was to commence at 12:00 on Thursday, August 3, 2017. Most notably, the agreements provided for a full cessation of hostilities between the conflicting parties in the relevant areas -with the exclusion of the areas in which ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham are present- and for humanitarian aids to enter these areas and for detainees to be released as per the demands of each party as to which detainees are to be released.
The report notes that Idlib governorate and the surrounding areas were established as a de-escalation zone at the end of the sixth round of Astana Talks that were held on September 14-15, as it was provided that military forces (Russian, Turkish, and Iranian) would be deployed to monitor the agreement, with the passage of humanitarian aids. 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, as rates of deaths due to torture didn’t see any changes from the month prior to the commencement of the agreement. This strongly asserts that there is a ceasefire of some sort on the table, but the crimes that the international community -especially the guarantors- won’t see are still going on as nothing had changed.
Furthermore, the report notes that armed opposition factions signed an agreement with a Russian Ministry of Defense representative that stated that southern Damascus city would be added to the de-escalation zones, as the agreement was to come into force at 12:00 of October 12, 2017. The agreement provided for a ceasefire in the area, and ensured that the area residents would not be displaced, in addition to the passage of humanitarian aids to the area.
In addition, the report sheds light on Astana talks, as Ankara Agreement guarantor states (Russia, Turkey, and Iran) called on, in their final statement at the conclusion of round 7 of Astana talks that were held on the 30th and 31st of October 2017, the parties to the conflict in Syria to take steps towards building trust, including releasing detainees and forcibly-disappeared persons, delivering dead bodies, and ensure the passage of humanitarian aids into besieged areas.
The report notes that the Syrian authorities denies executing any arrests and, instead, accuses Al-Qaeda and terrorist groups such as ISIS. Additionally, the Syrian regime doesn’t acknowledge any torture or death-due-to-torture cases. SNHR obtains information from former prisoners or prisoners’ families where most of the families get the information they have about their detained relatives through bribing officials in charge. Syrian authorities usually don’t give back the dead bodies of the prisoners to their families. Also, in most cases, families are scared to go and get the dead bodies of their relatives or even their personal items from military hospitals out of fear of being arrested themselves.
The report sheds light on the difficulties SNHR team encounters in the documentation process on account of the ban imposed against it and the fact that its members are being pursued by various parties. In light of such circumstances, it might be difficult to fully verify deaths as the process remains subject to ongoing documentation and verification.
The report records that 206 individuals have died due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria between the start of 2017 and November of the same year, while 21 individuals died due to torture in October, including 20 at the hands of Syrian regime forces. In addition, one victim died due to torture at the hands of armed opposition factions.
According to the report, Daraa governorate saw the highest toll of victims dying due to torture with eight individuals. The remaining toll is distributed across governorates as follows: 4 in Damascus suburbs, 4 in Aleppo, 2 in Idlib, 1 in Hama, 1 in Homs, 1 in Raqqa.
Most notable cases of deaths due to torture in October were: one student, two university students, and one engineer.
The report affirms that this considerably huge number of victims who are dying under torture every month, with taking into consideration that the actual number of deaths is most likely higher, unequivocally indicates a systematized policy that is being adopted by the head of the ruling authorities. All of the state’s organs, branches, and figures are fully aware of these policies. Furthermore, these policies were enforced in a widespread manner which constitutes crimes against humanity and war crimes. Also, the report stresses that some armed opposition factions have practiced acts of torture which constitute war crimes.
The reports call on the Security Council to implement the Resolutions adopted on Syria and hold all those who violate the Resolutions accountable.
Finally, the report calls on the Russian guarantor to stop the Syrian regime from dooming all de-escalation agreements, and start making progress in the detainees issue by revealing the fates of 76,000 forcibly-disappeared persons.