The SNHR says today that it is necessary to take action to rescue some 6,000 civilians in Hajin district who have been subjected to indiscriminate and repeated bombardments by the Syrian Democratic forces and the International Coalition forces since September 11, 2018.
The eight-page report monitored the sharpening of clashes with ISIS since July, 2018, and the low frequency of the air attacks by the International Coalition forces against ISIS before the Syrian Democratic forces announced the resumption of military operations on September 11, 2018. The report refers that there was no serious desire to eliminate ISIS from the areas it controls in the far east of Syria, although this is possible and more easily than it was the case of the battle of Raqqa.
This report highlights the most prominent human rights violations committed by both the International Coalition forces and the Syrian Democratic forces in areas still under the control of ISIS in Deir Ez-Zour governorate, which the report called it “Hajin district” as a term between September 11, and December 20, 2018.
The report focuses on the dire humanitarian situation of thousands of civilians trapped between Syrian Democratic forces and Syrian Regime forces, as well as their suffering, as a result of ISIS tightening its security grip on them and using them as human shields.
The Syrian Democratic forces imposed a blockade on Hajin city, Abu al Hasan village, al Kashma village, al Sh’afa town, al Sousa town, al Baghouz village, which are under the control of ISIS. The report states that it carried out attacks using missile launchers and mortar shells, and set up snipers on the outskirts of villages and towns. Finally, the International Coalition forces supported Syrian Democratic forces on the ground, where hundreds of air strikes were launched.
The report monitors the use of artillery shells by the International Coalition forces stationed in the badia of Hajin city, noting that at least two attacks involving incendiary weapons in areas far from the frontlines and populated areas were carried out.
According to the report, at least 165 people, including 74 children, and 29 women (adult females) have been killed since September 11, 2018. As of December 20, 2018, the Syrian Democratic forces have killed 12 civilians, including 3 children, while International Coalition forces killed 153 civilians, including 71 children and 29 women.
The report records at least 13 massacres, all at the hands of the International Coalition forces, in addition to at least 13 incidents of assault against civilian vital centers, which were the international coalition forces responsible for 11 incidents, including two on medical facilities, while Syrian Democratic forces were responsible for two incidents.
The indiscriminate attacks and intensive bombardments coincided with an ongoing blockade imposed by Syrian democratic forces on the areas controlled by ISIS. The report notes that these forces have not been allowing commercial trucks to enter into Hajin district since September 11, which has led to a deterioration in the living conditions of thousands of people. And medical materials and supplies ran out. All medical centers were out of service after being targeted by International Coalition forces aviation.
The report points out that some civilians had to flee towards the areas of control of the Syrian Regime forces located on the opposite bank of the Euphrates River, despite all that this displacement carries the risk of being subjected to arrests and torture that may be carried out by Syrian Regime forces. The report says that these civilians were subjected to sniping actions and mortar and artillery shelling by the Syrian Regime forces on boats of civilians who were trying to flee towards their areas of control.
The report monitors the prevention of ISIS for people to leave their areas of control, referring to the attack carried out by ISIS on October 11, 2018, on badia of Hajin camp, which included IDPs from Hajin district, where they burned tents and returned hundreds of displaced persons to its areas of control.
The report stresses that Syrian Democratic forces did not seek to secure safe corridors for displaced persons fleeing the hell of military operations in a Hajin district. They also detained civilians who went to the Badia of Hajin camp, which was established by the Syrian Democratic Forces and imposed house arrest on them.
The report also points out that the Syrian Democratic forces prevented the civilians from leaving the camp until they verified their identity papers and interrogated many of them for fear of the existence of elements affiliated with ISIS. The report mentions extortion operations against the residents, where they were forced to pay large amounts of money to the Syrian Democratic forces that control the camp to allow them to leave.
The report stresses that the Coalition forces (the Syrian Democratic forces and the International Coalition forces) committed serious and multiple violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to war crimes. The parties directed numerous attacks against civilian populations, including aerial and ground bombardment of populated areas. These forces didn’t send any warnings prior to the attacks as required by international humanitarian law.
According to the report, attacks by the Coalition forces incidentally caused civilian casualties, injury to civilians or serious damage to civilian objects. There are very strong indications of the belief that the damage was too excessive when compared to the desired military advantage.
According to the report, ISIS also committed widespread violations of international humanitarian law against the people in areas under its control, preventing them from leaving the areas under their control, in order to be protected by them and use them as human shields, which constitutes a war crime.
The report says that the Syrian Regime forces attacked civilians who tried to flee towards their areas of control. These attacks violate international humanitarian and human rights law and amount to war crimes.
The report calls on the International Coalition forces to respect international humanitarian law and customary international law, and therefore the countries of the international coalition bear responsibility for the violations that have occurred since the attacks began, and must bear the consequences of all these violations, and try their best to avoid recurrence. The report stresses the need for Syrian democratic forces to provide a safe passage for civilians fleeing the areas of control of ISIS, and to improve the situation of the camps under its supervision, and to allow displaced people freedom of movement, and to provide food and medical assistance, and for the SDF supporting countries to put pressure on them to stop all human rights violations.
The report recommends that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) find ways to deliver food, water and shelter to displaced people who have settled in several areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic forces.