The Syrian Regime Uses Barrel Bombs in the Chemical Attack on Douma City in Eastern Ghouta
SNHR has released its monthly report on the use of barrel bombs by Syrian regime forces for the month of April.
The report notes that the Syrian regime has used improvised, low-cost, highly-effective weapons in order to kill as many victims as possible and inflict as much wide destruction as possible. Barrel bombs have been one of the most-used improvised weapons since March 2011. The first documented barrel bomb attack, according to the report, was on July 18, 2012 in Dael city, northern Daraa governorate, where five civilians were killed in that attack, including one female child and three women while about eight others were injured.
The report adds that it took the Security Council about a year and a half to adopt resolution 2139 on February 22, 2014, which condemned the use of barrel bombs, However, the Syrian regime is still raining down the areas outside of its control with tens of barrel bombs.
The report says that Syrian regime forces have used 25,364 barrel bombs since the start of the Russian intervention on September 30, 2015, despite the promises made by Vitaly Churkin, the former Russian representative to the United Nations, in October 2015 where he said that the Syrian regime would stop bombing with barrel bombs.
The report sheds light on the nature of barrel bombs, the methods adopted by the Syrian regime to manufacture them, the types of containers and explosive materials used by the Syrian regime, and the chemical substances, incendiary ammunitions, and metal objects that are added to barrel bombs.
This report draws upon the ongoing monitoring of news and development by SNHR team, and accounts by survivors, eyewitnesses, and local media activists, in addition to analyzing a large number of videos and pictures that were posted online or sent by local activists.
The report notes that no discernible difference has been recorded between April’s barrel bomb toll and March’s, as Syrian regime forces continued to drop barrel bomb on the areas that are not under their control in order to push the residents of those areas towards forced displacement, which was the case in early-April in Douma city.
The report adds that the offensive, which was in parallel with dropping barrel bombs, shifted to the areas of northern suburbs of Homs, southern suburbs of Hama, and some areas in southern Damascus city for the very same purpose.
The report also documents that poison gases-loaded barrel bombs were used by the Syrian regime in Eastern Ghouta for a second month in a row, as poison gases-loaded barrel bombs were dropped on Douma city on April 7, which resulted in the killing of 41 civilians, who suffocated to death, including 12 children and 15 women.
The report says that Syrian regime air force have dropped no less than 2,388 barrel bombs since the start of 2018, where March saw the majority of those barrel bombs, followed by April. The report records that no less than 761 barrel bombs were dropped in April. These barrel bombs resulted in the killing of 59 civilians, including 16 children and 22 women (adult female). Also, barrel bomb attacks resulted in damages to vital civilian facilities, as the report recorded two attacks on a mosque and a medical facility.
The report stresses that the Syrian government has violated Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2254, and used barrel bombs in a systematic, widespread manner. Also, the Syrian government, through the crime of willful killing, has violated Article 7 and Article 8 of Rome Statute. In addition, the Syrian government has violated the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life. Considering that these violations were committed in a non-international armed conflict, they qualify as a war crime.
The report notes that barrel bomb attacks are an indiscriminate bombing that targeted defenseless civilians and caused significant damages to protected objects. The damage was too excessive compared to the anticipated military benefit.
According to the report, Through the use of poison gases-loaded barrel bombs, the Syrian regime has violated the rules of the customary international humanitarian law. Secondly, the Syrian regime has violated the CWC treaty. Thirdly, the Syrian regime has violated all relevant Security Council resolutions – particularly 2118, 2209, and 2235. In addition, the use of chemical weapons constitutes a war crime according to ICC’s Rome Statute.
The report notes that Syrian regime forces have used barrel bombs loaded with incendiary ammunitions without a justification, and without taking any measures to reduce the damages to civilians and civilian facilities.
The report calls on the Security Council to ensure the serious implementation of its resolutions. Also, the report calls on the four permanent state members to apply pressure on the Russian government to cease its support for the Syrian regime, while the report adds that an arms embargo should be imposed on the Syrian regime. In addition, the report emphasizes that the case in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court, peace and security should be instilled in Syria, and the prosecution of everyone involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes should commence immediately.
The report calls on the European Union and the United States of America to support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 71/248, adopted on December 21, 2016. And establish local tribunals that enjoy a universal jurisdiction, and address the war crimes that were perpetrated in Syria.
In addition, the report says that pressure should be applied on the Syria government to ratify Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and pressure the Syrian government to comply with the Protocol’s restrictions.
Also, the report calls on the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to launch investigations on the incidents included in this report and past reports. The report stresses that SNHR is willing to cooperate and provide more evidences and data.
In addition, the report calls for the implementation of the “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” norm, especially after all political channels have been consumed through the Arab League and then Mr. Kofi Annan’s plan, and the Cessation of Hostilities statements and Astana agreements that followed. The report stresses that action should be taken under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, 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.