6,239 Civilians Killed, including 1,804 Children
The heavy and indiscriminate bombardments have been a standard since the first days of the intervention of Russian forces in Syria on September 30, 2018, which generated a state of panic and terrorization in the areas that broke away from the Syrian regime’s control, as it aimed to end all forms of resistance and force these areas to submit and surrender. Most of the bombardments had no military justification in accordance with the law of raw, as Russian forces used highly-destructive weapons, in addition to using cluster munitions and incendiary ammunitions, particularly in populated areas.
The report, which was released today by SNHR on the 3rd anniversary of the Russian military intervention, outlines the reports that document the most notable violations by Russian forces since the start of their military intervention in Syria on September 30, 2015, and the violations that followed, including killing, destruction, and forced displacement.
The “40”-page report touches upon the methodology adopted by SNHR with respect to assigning responsibility to Russian forces in specific attacks, where a number of determents were used including cross-checking information and statements published by pro-Russian authorities media outlets against what we have documented on the ground, in addition to cross-checking a large number of accounts, most of which are for central signal operators who work on tracking the movement of the warplanes that take off from Syrian or Russian airbases and pinpointing their course. The report contains five accounts for eyewitnesses and victims’ families that were collected by speaking directly to the witnesses and are not cited from any open sources.
The report stresses that Russia’s support for the Syrian regime has made Russia implicated in the war crimes that the Syrian regime has been perpetrating since March 2011. The report adds that Russia has abusively used its veto power 12 times to protect a regime that has perpetrated the most horrendous crimes in the modern age, effectively obstructing any resolution to hold it accountable. Of those vetoes, six were related to the file of chemical weapons, as Russian hindered the extension of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) and obstructed the investigation into the Douma attack in April 2018, and impeded the work of IIIM.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
“Russia is delusional in believing that completely dominating and crushing the Syrian people will end the path of accountability. Russia has to fully realize that it has invested in a rotten and failed regime that can’t be rehabilitated or legitimized. With every day that investment goes on, it leads to greater failure and loss.
In order to bring back stability to the Syrian community and state, Russia has to atone for its crimes, compensate victims, and rid the Syrian people of this brutal regime.”
In parallel with its methods of killing and destruction in Syria, Russia has made sure to take the lead on the political front by supporting agreements and truces that saw Russia either as a sponsor or a party. The report notes that Russian forces deliberately violated those agreements, which demonstrated a carefully planned scheme that aims to dismantle and exhaust the areas that broke away from the Syrian regime’s control, so they submit one by one.
The report sheds light on five patterns of violations and retaliatory attacks which exhibited a harrowing, deliberate hostile nature. Some of these attacks have been carried out in a systematic and repeated manner. The report highlights the double-strike tactic which Russian forces used in 21 massacres, in addition to the attacks that targeted medical facilities after receiving injuries from previous attacks, attacks on camps, which were approximately 14 attacks, the attacks that targeted the routes taken by IDPs civilians, and the retaliatory attacks that follow Russian material losses.
According to the report, Russian airstrikes were concentrated in west Syria in the first two years. However, Russian forces started in August 2017 to expand its military operations to the ISIS-held eastern governorates. Signs of the Russian ground presence were seen more frequently in the past year, as the report stresses that there has been an increase in the rates of artillery shelling and the use of land cluster munitions which can be traced back, the report reads, to the Russian camp in southern Helfaya city.
The report documents that 6,239 civilians have been killed at the hands of Russian forces, including 1,804 children, between the start of their military intervention in Syria and September 30, 2018. The report breaks down the death toll by year, as the first two years saw most of those deaths. On the other hand, Aleppo, Idlib, and Deir Ez-Zour governorates recorded the majority of those deaths.
In addition, the report documents no less than 321 massacres perpetrated by Russian forces and 954 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including 176 attacks on schools, 166 attacks on medical facilities, and 55 attacks on markets between the start of the Russian military intervention in Syria and September 30, 2018.
The report adds that Russian forces killed 92 medical and civil defense personnel, in addition to 19 media workers.
Further, the report notes that Russian forces have used cluster munitions in no less than 232 attacks and incendiary ammunitions in 125 attacks since the start of their intervention.
The intensified violence by Russian forces has had the largest impact in terms of forced displacement, as Russian attacks, in parallel with the attacks carried out by the Syrian-Iranian alliance, have resulted in the displacement of approximately 2.7 million people.
Between September 30, 2017, and September 30, 2018, the report records, Russian forces killed 958 civilians, including 342 children, 17 medical personnel, and two media workers. In addition, Russian forces were responsible for 59 massacres and no less than 183 attacks on vital civilian facilities.
The report stresses that the Russian regime has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both state that indiscriminate attacks must be ceased. Also, the Russian regime has violated, through the crime of willful killing, Articles 7 and 8 of Rome Statue, which constitutes war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report adds that the bombardment has targeted defenseless civilians. Therefore, Russian forces have violated the rules of the international human rights law which protect the right to life.
The report calls on the Security Council to take additional steps after Resolution 2139 has been adopted, refer the Syrian file to the International Criminal Court, and hold all those who were involved accountable.
In addition, the report calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect (R2P)’ norm after all political initiatives, through the Arab League agreement and then Mr. Kofi Annan’s plan and the Cessation of Hostilities and Astana agreements that followed, have been to no avail. As such, 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 UN General Assembly, should be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.
Lastly, the report calls on the Russian regime to launch investigations into the incidents included in this report, make the findings of those investigation public to the Syrian people, hold those who were involved accountable, compensate all the damaged centers and facilities, rehabilitate them, achieve reparations for all the families of the wounded and the victims who were killed by the present Russian regime, immediately cease the bombing of hospitals, protected objects, and civilian areas, and respect the customary humanitarian law.