Including 569 Civilians in December
SNHR has released its periodic death toll report for the month of December 2017 in which it documented the killing of 10,204 civilians at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria in the year 2017.
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 adds 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.
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 10,204 civilians, including 2,298 children and 1,536 women, have been killed in 2017 at the hands of the parties to the conflict. Syrian regime forces killed 4,148 civilians, including 754 children and 591 women, while 211 victims died due to torture at the hands of Syrian regime forces. Russian forces killed 1,436 civilians, including 439 children and 284 women, whereas Self-Management forces killed 316 civilians, including 58 children, 54 women, and five who died due to torture.
According to the report, international coalition forces killed 1,759 civilians, including 521 children and 332 women, in 2017 while ISIS killed 1,421 civilians, including 281 children, 148 women and one victim who die due to torture. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed 25 civilians, including two children, one woman, and four who died due to torture.
The report also notes that factions from the armed opposition killed 186 civilians in 2017, including 45 children, 29 women, and seven who died due to torture while 913 civilians, including 198 children, 97 women, and four who died due to torture, were killed by other parties.
According to the report, Damascus and its suburbs saw the most deaths with 2019 civilians killed since the start of 2017, followed by Raqqa governorate with 1,512 civilians.
Furthermore, the report notes that 569 civilians were killed in December 2017 as 285 civilians were killed by Syrian regime forces, including 49 children (two children are killed every day on average) and 34 women (adult female). Additionally, among the victims were 15 who died due to torture.
The report notes that forces we believe are Russian killed 47 civilians including 16 children and 14 women.
Additionally, the report documented the killing of 10 civilians at the hands of the Kurdish Self-management forces including two children and one woman.
The report documents that 97 civilians were killed by extremist Islamic groups. Of those, ISIS killed 96 civilians, including 20 children and six women, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed one civilian.
Also, the report says that armed opposition factions killed one civilian,
In addition, the report records that 89 civilians, including 38 children and 19 women, were killed by international coalition forces in 2017.
The report documents that 40 civilians, including seven children and nine 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, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, Self-Management forces, factions from the armed opposition, international coalition forces, and other parties 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.