Including 31 Attacks in December
SNHR announced today that it had documented at least 587 attacks on vital civilian facilities by the parties to the conflict were documented in December.
The report notes that Syrian regime forces, then Syrian-Russian alliance forces, are once again far ahead of all other parties in targeting vital civilian facilities – especially in the areas under the control of the armed opposition, and to a lesser degree in ISIS-held areas, adding that repeated attacks on thousands of vital facilities have been recorded, which proves conclusively that these facilities were deliberately destroyed or severely damaged in attacks which included hundreds of massacres.
As the report shows, while other parties committed similar violations to varying degrees, these were never on the massive scale of the crimes by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian forces.
The report includes attacks that have been documented, including deliberate incidents of bombardment that targeted civilian structures and facilities, instances of looting, and attacks that left such structures and facilities largely or wholly non-functional and prevented them from fulfilling their purpose in serving civilians despite the lack of any pressing military necessity in attacking these structures, none of which were being used for any combat purposes by any party which might conceivably have justified other parties in the conflict targeting them.
This report draws upon the ongoing monitoring of news and development by SNHR team, and on 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.
According to the report, December saw a rise in the number of attacks on vital civilian facilities compared to the previous two months, with the highest number of attacks once again being perpetrated by Syrian Regime forces, which carried out 13 such attacks, all within the fourth de-escalation zone.
The report adds that in the first quarter of 2018, 60 percent of the total number of attacks on vital civilian facilities were documented following the military escalation witnessed in the three de-escalation zones (specific areas within the northern Homs governorate, parts of the Daraa and Quneitra governorates, and the Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Suburbs governorate) which caused extensive destruction and led to the forced displacement of those areas’ residents, and to these areas being controlled by Syrian Regime forces. The report notes that while the last nine months witnessed an unprecedented increase in the frequency of bombings, most of these have been in the northern Syria region which had broken free from the control of Syrian Regime forces, with this increase in bombing accompanied by attacks on vital civilian facilities. The report also adds that Syrian-Russian forces committed 73 percent of the attacks on vital civilian facilities during this period, once again putting it far ahead of any of the other parties of the conflict in Syria in this category as in others, with 68 percent of these attacks targeting medical facilities, schools, mosques and markets.
The report documents 587 attacks on vital civilian facilities in 2018, which were distributed according to the perpetrators as follows: 292 attacks by Syrian Regime forces, 131 attacks by Russian forces, six by ISIS, five by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, seven by factions of the Armed Opposition, 21 by International Coalition forces, 10 by Kurdish Self-Management forces, and 115 by other parties.
The report also gives details of the vital facilities attacked in 2018, which were distributed: 139 infrastructures, 132 vital medical facilities, 121 places of worship, 115 vital educational facilities, 50 communal facilities, 17 refugee camps, nine International Humanitarian insignias, four vital cultural facilities
The report documents at least 31 attacks in December, including 13 attacks by Syrian Regime forces. In addition, ISIS was responsible for one attack, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham for two attacks, International Coalition forces for six attacks, and other parties for nine attacks.
The report provides a breakdown of the vital facilities that were attacked in December, as follows: 11 infrastructure facilities, nine vital educational facilities, six places of worship, four vital medical facilities, and one communal facility.
The report highlights only the most notable incidents, adding that the complete details of all the incidents documented are stored on the SNHR database. Additionally, the report notes that the incidents documented are only the bare minimum due to the many practical challenges involved in the documentation process.
The report stresses that Syrian-Russian-Iranian forces have violated Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2254 through use of indiscriminate bombardment, in addition to violating articles 52, 53, 54, 55, and 56 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, as well as rules 7 through 10 of customary international humanitarian law.
The report adds that Coalition Forces (the international coalition and SDF) have carried out attacks that caused significant damages to civilian facilities. In most cases, these attacks also resulted in losses that involved casualties. There are strong indicators suggesting that the damage was excessive compared to the anticipated military benefit.
In addition, the report notes that the other parties involved in the conflict have also carried out attacks that targeted civilian structures, which also resulted, in some cases, in loss of lives. These violations might qualify as war crimes. However, these violations don’t fit the criteria to qualify as crimes against humanity, as with the Syrian regime and pro-regime forces.
The report calls on the Security Council to take additional action following the adoption of resolutions 2139 and 2254. Also, the report stresses that the Syrian crisis should be referred to the International Criminal Court and all those involved in perpetrating crimes should be held accountable, including the Russian regime whose involvement in multiple war crimes has been conclusively proven.
In addition, the report calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect (R2P)’ norm, especially after all political channels have been exhausted, including all agreements, as well as Cessation of Hostilities statements and Astana agreements. 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 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 universal jurisdiction, while effectively addressing the war crimes perpetrated in Syria.
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 previous reports. The report stresses that SNHR is willing to cooperate and provide further evidence and data.
Additionally, the report calls on the Russian regime and international coalition forces to launch investigations into the incidents included in the report, to make the findings of these investigations public to the Syrian people, and to hold all those who were involved accountable.
Furthermore, the report calls on the states supporting the SDF to apply pressure on these forces in order to compel them to cease all of their violations in all the areas and towns under their control, and to cease all forms of support, including weapons.
Lastly, the report calls on armed opposition factions to ensure the protection of civilians in all the areas under their control, and to launch investigations into the attacks that have resulted in civilian casualties. Additionally, armed opposition factions should take care to distinguish between civilian and military targets, and cease any indiscriminate attacks.