Including 79% at the Hands of the Syrian-Russian Alliance
SNHR has released its periodic death toll report for the month of November 2017 in which it documented the killing of 996 civilians at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria.
The report notes that a comprehensive ceasefire was announced from the Turkish capital Ankara under a Russian-Turkish sponsorship on December 30, 2016. The signing parties, the Syrian regime on one side and armed opposition factions on the other side, agreed to cease all armed attacks in the majority of the Syrian region. The military areas controlled by ISIS (self-proclaimed the Islamic State) were excluded from the agreement.
The report also notes that Ankara Ceasefire Agreement was followed by seven rounds of talks that were held in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, between Russian, Turkish, and Iranian representatives as the states who sponsored Ankara Ceasefire Agreement. These rounds -the most recent of which was on October 30-31, 2017- discussed mostly, in parallel with a number of local agreements, ways to further establish de-escalation zones in Idlib governorate and the surrounding areas (parts of Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia governorates), northern Homs governorate, Eastern Ghouta, and parts of Daraa and Quneitra governorates in south Syria. Additionally, the talks addressed ways to deliver humanitarian aids and enable IDPs to return to those areas.
Since these agreements went into effect, the included areas saw a relatively good and noticeable drop in killing rates in relation to the past months since March 2011.
The report notes that these agreements reflected on the civilians’ lives in most of the included areas, 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 guarantors- won’t see are still going on as nothing had changed.
The report stresses that Syrian-Russian alliance have initiated a vicious offensive against Eastern Ghouta on the 14th of last November despite a de-escalation agreement that was reached in Eastern Ghouta between Jaish al Islam, an armed opposition faction, and Russian forces under an Egyptian sponsorship on Saturday, July 22, 2017, and was followed by a similar agreement with Failaq al Rahman faction that established the faction’s inclusion in the de-escalation zone in Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
The report notes that November recorded a 20% increase in the toll of civilian deaths at the hands of the Syrian-Russian alliance forces compared to October, as the Syrian-Russian alliance topped all parties to the conflict for the third month in a row, followed by ISIS. We also documented an unprecedented drop in civilian deaths at the hands of international coalition forces since September 2016.
Deir Ez-Zour governorate saw the most civilian deaths, with a similar toll to that of October’s, while Damascus and its suburbs saw the second-most civilian deaths with a toll that was nearly twice and a half as the toll the governorate recorded in October.
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 hand, 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 10,034 civilians have been killed between the start of 2017 and December of the same year at the hands of the parties to the conflict. Furthermore, the report outlines the death toll of November 2017, as the report says that 503 civilians were killed by Syrian regime forces, including 74 children (three children are killed every day on average) and 51 women (adult female). Additionally, among the victims were nine who died due to torture.
The report notes that forces we believe are Russian killed 279 civilians including 95 children and 44 women.
Additionally, the report documented the killing of 15 civilians at the hands of the Kurdish Self-management forces including one child and two women.
The report documents that 114 civilians were killed by ISIS, including 16 children and 10 women.
Also, the report says that armed opposition factions killed five civilians, including one child and one woman.
In addition, the report records that six civilians were killed by international coalition forces in November 2017.
The report documents that 74 civilians, including 24 children and five 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 calls on the Russian guarantor to respect the agreements they struck and apply serious pressure on their Syrian and Iranian allies in order to cease all forms of killing, shelling, and torture-to-death inside detention centers, and start releasing detainees.
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 ISIS, Self-Management forces, and armed opposition factions have perpetrated crimes of extrajudicial killing that qualify as war crimes. Additionally, international coalition forces have committed war crimes through the crime of extrajudicial killing as well.
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.
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.
Furthermore, 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 at the hands of the Syrian regime.