329 Civilians Killed, including 79 Children, in Two Months of Escalation in Eastern Ghouta

The Security Council is in Deep Sleep

SNHR

SNHR said in a report released today, “The Security Council is in Deep Sleep”, that 329 civilians were killed in Eastern Ghouta, including 29 children, in two months of escalation.
 
The report notes that the de-escalation agreement, which went into effect in May 2017, have failed to end the massacres, violations, and the indiscriminate, or deliberate, attacks by the Syrian-Russian alliance. The local agreements that followed in Eastern Ghouta region haven’t fared any better too. The report records 28 massacres and 84 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including 12 medical facilities, from July 22, 2017, the day on which Jaish al Islam and Russian forces signed the agreement, until the time of this writing.
 
According to the report, only four convoys have had access to Eastern Ghouta since July 2017 even tough the agreements that were struck explicitly stated that the Eastern Ghouta siege must come to an end and all medical cases must be evacuated immediately while relief convoys should be allowed entrance to the region.
 
The report says that the Syrian regime barred the critical medical cases, which have been increasing rapidly in light of the ongoing Syrian regime’s starvation and denial-of-medical-supplies policies, from being evacuated. This crisis, which hit a critical point back in March 2017, concerns nearly 630 critical medical cases, including cancer, chronic diseases, and wounded who need special surgeries.
 
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, added:
“What’s taking place in Eastern Ghouta is a violation to three things at the same time: the law of war, the de-escalation agreements, and bilateral agreements struck with Russia. These things, altogether, haven’t been enough at all to protect the civilians in Eastern Ghouta from the retaliation of the Syrian-Russian alliance forces. Instead of targeting clash lines and military fighters, families, houses, hospitals, and schools are being, very contemptibly, killed and bombed.”
 
The report draws upon ongoing monitoring for news and incidents by SNHR team, as well as an extensive network of relations that include tens of various sources. The report contains seven accounts that were collected through speaking directly to eyewitnesses, and not cited from any open sources.
 
According to the report, all the targeted areas were civilian areas where no military centers or weapon warehouses for armed opposition factions or extremist Islamic groups were found before or during the attack. Also, Syrian/Russian forces didn’t alert the civilians prior to the attacks as the international humanitarian law requires.
 
The report outlines the most notable violations of human rights by the Syrian-Russian alliance in the armed opposition-held Eastern Ghouta, Damascus suburbs governorate, between November 14, 2017 and January 11, 2018. The report says that 329 civilians were killed, including 79 children and 54 women (adult female), five civil defense personnel, five medical personnel, and one media activist in the period of time covered by the report. The death toll is divided into 279 civilians, including 71 children and 41 women, killed by Syrian regime forces and 32 civilians, including eight children and 13 women, killed by Russian forces.
 
Additionally, the report records 20 massacres by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces, where Syrian regime forces were responsible for 17 massacres while Russian forces committed three massacres. According to the report, among the victims were six civilians, including one child and one woman, who died due to lack of food and medications, in light of the siege imposed by the Syrian regime forces on the region.
 
The report adds that Syrian regime forces were responsible for 43 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including eight attacks that targeted mosques, four that targeted schools, and six attacks that targeted medical facilities whereas local markets were targeted in 13 attacks.
 
The report notes that Syrian regime forces used cluster munitions four times and poison gases two times in the period of time covered by the report.
 
The report stresses that the Syrian and Russian regimes have, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both state that indiscriminate attacks must be halted. Also, The Syrian and Russian regimes have violated Article 8 of Rome Statute through the act of willful killing which constitutes war crimes. The report adds that the bombardment has targeted defenseless civilians. Therefore, Syrian and 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.
 
The report stresses that Syrian regime forces have breached, through the use of chemical weapons, Security Council resolutions 2118, 2209, and 2235. Also, these forces have breached the CWC which the Syrian government ratified in September 2013.
 
The report calls on the Russian regime to launch investigations regarding the incidents included in this report and, then, make the findings of these investigations public for the Syrian people, and hold the people involved accountable. Also, the damaged facilities and centers should be compensated. Moreover, the report calls on the Russian government, as a guarantor party in Astana talks, to stop failing de-escalation agreements, and apply pressure on the Syrian regime in order to end all indiscriminate attacks and allow an unconditional passage of humanitarian aids to Eastern Ghouta.
 
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 should be instilled in Syria, and the Reasonability to Protect norm should 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.
 
Lastly, the report calls for the implementation of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) norm, especially after all political channels have proven in effective, starting with the Arab League’s agreement and Mr. Kofi Annan’s plan and the Cessation of Hostilities and Astana agreements that followed. Therefore, steps under Article VII of the Charter of the United Nations should be taken and the “Responsibility to Protect” norm, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, should be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.
 

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