At Least 26,577 Barrel Bombs Dropped by the Syrian Regime Since the Russian Intervention
SNHR has released its monthly report documenting the use of barrel bombs by Syrian Regime, in which SNHR documented 3,601 barrel bombs dropped by Syrian Regime forces in 2018.
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 widespread destruction as possible. Barrel bombs have been one of the most widely 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, with five civilians killed in that attack, including one female child and three women while around eight others were injured.
The report adds that it took the Security Council around a year and a half after that attack to adopt resolution 2139 on February 22, 2014, which condemned the use of barrel bombs, However, the Syrian regime has continued to subject areas outside of its control to a dreadful daily rain of dozens of barrel bombs.
The report documents that Syrian regime forces have used 26,577 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, when he stated that the Syrian regime would end its use of 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 have been added to barrel bombs.
According to the report, the Syrian regime, in 2018, used barrel bombs as a weapon on an intensive basis in the three de-escalation zones (specific areas of northern Homs governorate, parts of the governorates of Daraa and Quneitra, and the Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Suburbs governorate), targeting residential communities and inflicting frequent massacres and massive destruction, which led to the forced displacement of residents. However, this year’s record of barrel bomb attacks is the lowest to date in comparison to previous years, with no incidents recorded in the last quarter of the year, following the entry into force of the Sochi Agreement on September 17, 2018.
The report notes that the highest number of barrel bomb attacks recorded this year took place in Damascus Suburbs governorate, where 1,396 such attacks were documented, followed by Daraa governorate with 917, then Idlib governorate with 607.
The report provides a record of at least 3,601 barrel bombs dropped by the Syrian regime in 2018, during which the highest monthly figure was recorded in March, followed by April.
The use of barrel bombs in 2018, according to the report, resulted in the deaths of 187 civilians, including 51 children, and 55 women (adult female). A number of these barrel bombs were used in attacks on vital civilian facilities. The report documents at least 35 attacks on vital civilian facilities, nine of which were on mosques, two on schools, one on an educational institute, 17 on medical facilities, two on Civil Defense facilities, two on bakeries, one on industrial facilities, and one on a refugee camp.
According to the report, the Syrian regime used barrel bombs filled with poison gas as a weapon in four attacks in 2018: the first of these on was on Sarqeb city in Idlib governorate on February 4, the second such attack was on Hamouriya town in the Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Suburbs governorate on March 5, and the other two attacks, which took place three hours apart, were against Douma city in the Eastern Ghouta on April 7. Meanwhile, barrel bombs loaded with anti-tank mines were dropped on al Habeit village in the southern suburbs of Idlib governorate on September 10.
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 the Rome Statute. In addition, the Syrian government has violated the rules of international human rights law which guarantees the right to life. Since 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 form of bombing that targets defenseless civilians and has caused significant damages to protected objects. This damage was extremely excessive compared to any anticipated military benefit.
According to the report, through the use of barrel bombs containing poison gases, the Syrian regime has violated the rules of customary international humanitarian law. Secondly, the Syrian regime has also 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 the ICC’s Rome Statute.
The report notes that Syrian regime forces have used barrel bombs loaded with incendiary ammunitions without any military justification, and without taking any measures to reduce the damages to civilians and civilian facilities.
The report calls on the Syrian regime to stop treating the Syrian state as a private family property. In addition, the report calls on the Syrian regime to cease terrorizing the Syrian people by dropping barrel bombs, to assume responsibility for all legal and material consequences, and to compensate the victims and their families from the resources of the Syrian state.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to ensure the serious implementation of its resolutions. Also, the report calls on the five permanent member states to apply pressure on the Russian government to end 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, to establish local tribunals that enjoy universal jurisdiction, and to address the war crimes perpetrated in Syria.
In addition, the report states that pressure should be applied on the Syrian government to ratify Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and 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 into the incidents included in this report and past reports. The report stresses that SNHR is willing to cooperate and to provide further evidence and data.
In addition, the report calls for the implementation of the “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” norm, especially after all political channels have been exhausted through the efforts of the Arab League, 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 that 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.