At Least 4,594 Breaches Resulted in the Deaths of 248 Civilians, including 82 Children, Since the Sochi Agreement Entered into Force
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) stated in a report released today that since the Sochi Agreement entered into force, at least 4,594 breaches have taken place, resulting in the deaths of 248 civilians, including 82 children, demonstrating a clear escalation in breaches of the Sochi Agreement following the fourth trilateral summit.
This report highlights the record of violations in the fourth and final de-escalation zone (consisting of Idlib governorate and parts of the governorates of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia) and outlines the record of the most notable human rights violations in the period since the Sochi Agreement entered into force on September 17, 2018, up to March 14, 2019. The report also focuses on the violations that followed the Fourth Tripartite Summit in Sochi on February 14, 2019, and their impact on the already vast displacement of populations within Syria.
The 27-page report states that Sochi Agreement contributed to the suspension of air strikes carried out by the Syrian regime; since it entered into force, however, ground attacks have been incessant on villages and towns adjacent to the contact line and at a depth of approximately 16 kilometers across that line, particularly targeting towns and villages in the northern suburbs of Hama and the southern suburbs of Idlib, resulting in the displacement of the population from an area comprising about 20 percent of the de-escalation zone area of Idlib.
The report documents at least 4,594 breaches of the agreement by the main parties in the area, with the vast majority of these being perpetrated by Syrian Regime forces, in the demilitarized zone since the signing of the Sochi Agreement on September 17, 2018, until March 14, 2019. The Syrian regime was responsible for perpetrating 4,476 of these breaches, while Russian forces were responsible for at least 34 breaches, and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham carried out at least 46, while factions of the Armed Opposition were responsible for another 38
These breaches, according to the report, have resulted in the deaths of 248 civilians, including 82 children and 43 women (adult female), in addition to five massacres. The Syrian regime killed 185 civilians, including 71 children and 36 women, and committed three massacres. Russian forces killed 63 civilians, including 11 children and seven women, and committed two massacres.
According to the report, these breaches of the agreement resulted in at least 87 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including 17 on places of worship, 19 on schools, six on medical facilities and four on markets. The Syrian regime was responsible for 71 such incidents, while Russian forces carried out 13 attacks, and factions of the Armed Opposition were responsible for three attacks.
The report states that cluster munitions were used in at least 11 of these attacks, in addition to incendiary weapons being deployed in one attack by Syrian Regime forces on Idlib governorate between September 2018 to March 14 2019.
Following the conclusion of the fourth Tripartite Summit in Sochi on February 14, 2019, the report documented a change in the bombing policy adopted by Syrian Regime forces, according to which they deliberately bombed villages and towns that had not previously been subjected to intensive bombing since the Sochi Agreement came into force, with others bombed a few times. The bombing extended to areas up to 30 kilometers from the contact line, focusing particularly on overcrowded cities and towns.
The report points out that the most dangerous development after the fourth summit has been the implementation of air strikes by fixed-wing Syrian Regime forces’ warplanes- for the first time since the entry of the Sochi Agreement into force – using heavy machine guns and then missiles on the towns of southern suburbs of Idlib and the northern suburbs of Hama, and points also to the intervention of Russian air force which carried out several raids.
Between 14 February, 2019, the date of the fourth trilateral summit, and 14 March, the report documents at least 2,176 breaches of the agreement by the main parties in the area, including 2,073 at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, 28 at the hands of Russian forces, 46 at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, and 29 at the hands of factions of the Armed Opposition. The report points out that these breaches resulted in the deaths of 171 civilians, including 54 children, and 28 women, and in three massacres, one of which was carried out at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, who were responsible for the deaths of 117 civilians, including 46 children and 22 women during that period, while Russian forces perpetrated the other two massacres, killing 54 civilians, including eight children and six women.
As the report explains, these breaches have included at least 50 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including eight on places of worship, eight on schools, six on medical facilities and three on markets. The Syrian regime was responsible for 36 of these attacks, while Russian forces carried out 11, and factions of the Armed Opposition were responsible for the remaining three.
The report details nine attacks using cluster munition and one attack using incendiary weapons carried out by Syrian Regime forces from February 14, to March 14, 2019.
The report further reveals that the continuous bombardment since the signing of the Sochi agreement has resulted in the displacement of nearly 105,000 civilians, most of whom have not been able to return to their homes. IDPs are also finding it hard to find camps that can accommodate them. They also suffer from a lack of the most basic requirements due to their poor material conditions, frequent displacement, and the inability of organizations and relief agencies to meet the needs of all displaced persons.
The report stresses that the Syrian-Russian alliance forces violated the agreement on the de-escalation zone in all regions, including the Idlib region, repeatedly violating the Sochi Agreement, and practicing the crime of enforced displacement in a systematic, widespread and organized manner against the civilian population.
The report further notes that the Islamic factions and some Armed Opposition factions have also violated the Sochi Agreement and bombed areas under the control of Syrian Regime forces.
The report calls on the Security Council to provide genuine support for serious implementation of the peace process in Syria and to bring about a just political transition that guarantees security and stability, to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court, and to ensure that all those involved, including the Russian regime, are held accountable for having been implicated in committing war crimes, to pass a resolution concerning the some seven million internally displaced persons in Syria that addresses forced displacement, to ensure that this does not become a long-term crisis, and to put pressure on the Syrian regime to end displacements, and enact laws aimed at preventing the plunder of displaced persons’ properties and possessions.
The report urges the International Community to take action at both national and regional levels to form alliances to support the Syrian people in a way that can protect them from the daily killings and siege and increase support for relief efforts. Additionally, it urges that the principle of universal jurisdiction should be applied in local courts regarding these crimes in order to conduct fair trials of all those involved in perpetrating them.
The report calls for the implementation of the “Responsibility to Protect” principle following the exhaustion of previous efforts through all political channels after the Arab League’s plan, then Mr. Kofi Annan’s plan proved fruitless, Therefore, the report states, the steps recommended under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations should be adopted and the norm of the “Responsibility to Protect”, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, should be implemented, to fulfil justice and achieve accountability in Syria through the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
Finally, the report recommends that the OHCHR should submit a report to the Human Rights Council and other organs of the United Nations concerning the violations committed by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces.