Syrian Regime Forces Top all other Parties in Terms of Violations against Medical Personnel
SNHR has published its special monthly report that documents the violations against medical and civil defense personnel and their respective facilities by the parties to the conflict in Syria.
The report stresses that Syrian regime forces have been involved, since 2011, in targeting and bombing medical and civil defense facilities as well as the parties to the conflict that targeted medical and civil defense personnel in killing and arrest operations. This indicates a deliberate policy that only aims to kill more and deepen the suffering of the wounded whether they were civilians or armed.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
“Attacks on medical and civil defense centers as well as medical and civil defense personnel are considered a blatant violation of the international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes given the chaotic, and in many cases, deliberate, targeting of protected objects. All of this have only deepened the suffering of the wounded and injured and is one of the main reasons behind the displacement of the Syrian people as it sends a very clear message: there is no safe area, or a red line, including hospitals, you either flee or perish”
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.
Also, the report briefs that the American and Russian presidents, following an extensive round of talks between Russia, USA, and Jordan that commenced in May 2017 in Amman, Jordan’s capital, announced that a ceasefire agreement has been reached in southwestern Syria – Daraa, Quneitra, and Suwayda governorates on the sidelines of the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg. 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.
Then, the report talks about other local agreements that have been struck, such as Eastern 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. This helps, the report notes, 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 the included areas have seen a relatively good drop in the rates of killing since the agreements’ commencement in relation to the past 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, 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.
The report adds that with the end of the sixth round of talks in the Kazakhstani capital, Astana, which were held over the course of two days (September 14-15, 2017), a de-escalation zone was established in Idlib governorate and the surrounding areas, as military forces were to be deployed (Russian, Turkish, and Iranian) to monitor the agreement, with the passage of humanitarian aids. However, on September 19, Syrian-Russian alliance started a heavy offensive against Idlib governorate in response to Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s “Ya Ebadallah Uthbotou” battle. Supported by some opposition faction (The Islamic Turkistani Party, Jaish al Izza, and Jaish al Nukhba), Hay’at Tahrir al Sham started this battle in northeastern Hama governorate. Subsequently, Syrian-Russian alliance expanded the offensive to include the suburbs of Aleppo and Hama governorates and Eastern Ghouta in Damascus suburbs.
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 working on delivering humanitarian aids to besieged areas.
According to the report, October saw a notable decrease in the rates of violations against medical personnel and their facilities that has not been recorded since last July.
The report records that 97 medical personnel and civil defense personnel have been killed at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria between the start of 2017 and November of the same year. Additionally, the report documents that four medical and civil defense personnel were killed in October 2017 at the hands of Syrian regime forces, Russian forces, international coalition forces, and armed opposition factions.
The report breaks down the details of the victims, as Syrian regime forces killed a paramedic, while Russian forces and international coalition forces each killed a pharmacist. Additionally, armed opposition factions killed one doctor.
Also, the report documents six attacks on vital medical and civil defense facilities, including five by Syrian regime forces who targeted two medical facilities and three civil defense facilities, whereas the report records that Russian forces targeted a medical facility.
The report implements a high-level methodology for documentation which relies on survivors and families’ direct accounts in addition to the process of verifying and analyzing pictures, videos, and some medical records. However, the report notes that this documentation doesn’t include all the cases light of the ban and pursuit by Syrian regime forces and some of the other armed groups. In light of that, the type and number of evidences 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, they don’t necessarily qualify as crimes.
The report notes that Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254, which state that indiscriminate attacks must be halted, have been violated in these attacks. Also, the crime of willful killing constitutes a violation of Article 8 of Rome Statute which amounts to war crimes.
Moreover, Syrian forces violated the rules of the international human rights law, committing acts that constitute war crimes. Additionally, Russian forces, international coalition forces, and some armed opposition factions have carried out acts that amount to war crimes through the crime of extrajudicial killing or the targeting of vital civilian facilities.
The report calls on the Security Council to take additional steps as it has been more than two years since Resolution 2139 was adopted with no pledges to cease the indiscriminate bombardment operations being made.
The report emphasizes that the Security Council has to instill peace and security in Syria and implement the norm of “Responsibility to Protect” in order to save the Syrian people’s lives, culture, and arts from being destroyed, looted, and ruined. Also, sanctions must be expanded to include the Russian and Iranian regimes who have been directly involved in perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people.
The report also recommends the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) norm after all others political routes were drought out through the Arab League and then Mr. Kofi Annan’s plan. steps under Article 7 of the Rome Statute must be taken and the norm of the Responsibility to Protect, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, must be implemented as the Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria. The report also calls for renewing pressure on the Security Council to refer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court.
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.
Lastly, the report urges international organizations to send volunteers to work in safe areas where wounded are sent for treatment especially after many death cases were documented where many patients died because of the limited medical resources.