Primarily the Syrian and Russian regimes Repeatedly Violate Places of Worship
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) revealed in its report released today that at least20678 civilians were killed during the months of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr holidays between 2011 and 2019, pointing out that the Syrian and Russian regimes have repeatedly violated places of worship through bombings and targeted assaults.
The 35-page report points out that the month of Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims around the world, and Islam is the religion of the majority of the Syrian people, adding that mosques are places of worship and cultural and religious properties that the government is duty-bound to protect, as well as having other symbolic value as gathering places where most demonstrations in the popular uprising used to start out from, noting that since 2011, these have been targeting of various sects’ places of worship.
The report states also that the killing of civilians and targeting of their places of worship during these periods constitute a double violation since it displays contempt for religions and the sanctity of such occasions, and also fuels intense sectarian tension and division within society.
The report further notes that, under international law (Protocol 2, Article 16), places of worship must not be attacked at all, and should not be used to support any war effort, with any deliberate attacks against them constituting war crimes. Such attacks have repeatedly occurred in Syria, perpetrated by several parties in the Syrian conflict; the primary perpetrator of these violations is the Syrian regime which has deployed its air force, and used barrel bombs and missiles in these attacks. The report recommends that UNESCO should shed greater light on the destruction and damage inflicted on Islamic places of worship, identify those responsible for the destruction and bombing, and request special protection and the intervention of UN forces to protect civilians and places of worship in Syria.
The report refers to the military campaign against the latest month of Ramadan witnessed in the fourth and final de-escalation zone (consisting of Idlib governorate and parts of the governorates of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia), which is also subject to the Sochi Agreement, which have witnessed an increase in the frequency of bombardment and the direct targeting of places where civilians gather by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces, along with repeated use of highly destructive weapons, indiscriminate improvised munitions and prohibited weapons, including chemical weapons, in addition to an increase in targeting vital civilian facilities, especially medical centers.
The report cites the latest statistics of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which reported the displacement of nearly 270,000 people, most of whom now live in flimsy makeshift tents in agricultural land north of Idlib governorate, lacking the most basic essentials of life, in searing summer heat, without the Syrian-Russian alliance forces taking into account the sanctity of the month of Ramadan.
The report highlights the toll of civilian victims who were killed during the months of Ramadan and the three Eid al Fitr days that follow, starting from Ramadan 1432 AH corresponding to August 2011, until Ramadan 1440 AH corresponding to May and June 2019, and the targeting of Islamic places of worship during these periods.
According to the report, at least 18,974 civilians were killed during the months of Ramadan between 2011 and 2019, including 2,675 children and 2,339 women (adult females), of whom the Syrian regime killed 16,114 civilians, including 2,196 children and 1,967 women, while 246 civilians, including 46 children and 51 women were killed by Russian forces. Meanwhile, factions of the Armed Opposition killed 396 civilians, including 66 children, 109 women, and Syrian Democratic Forces killed 156 civilians, including 27 children and 16 women. Also, International Coalition forces killed 307 civilians, including 174 children, 49 women, while ISIS killed 1,137 civilians, including 89 children, and 102 women. In addition, Hay’at tahrir al Sham killed 16 civilians, including one child and one woman. The report also records the deaths of at least 602 civilians, including 76 children, and 44 women at the hands of other parties.
The report also distributes the toll of the victims according to the year in question; in the month of Ramadan 1432 AH corresponding to 2011, at least 811 civilians, including 112 children and 104 women were killed, while the report records the largest toll of victims in Ramadan 1433 AH corresponding to 2012, with the deaths of at least 6,718 civilians, including 688 children and 597 women. In Ramadan 1434 AH corresponding to 2013, the report records the deaths of at least 2,735 civilians, including 436 children and 411 women. Meanwhile, in Ramadan 1435 AH corresponding to 2014, at least 2,815 civilians, including 471 children and 451 women were killed, while in Ramadan 1436 AH corresponding to 2015, at least 2,752 civilians, including 386 children and 312 women were killed, the report says.
The report also records in Ramadan 1437 AH corresponding to 2016 at least 1,002 civilians, including 149 children and 135 women were killed, while in Ramadan 1438 AH corresponding to 2017, the report documents the deaths of at least 1,123 civilians, including 254 children and 206 women. In addition, in Ramadan 1439 AH corresponding to 2018, at least 652 civilians, including 93 children and 79 women were killed, while in Ramadan 1440 AH corresponding to 2019, at least 366 civilians, including 86 children and 44 women were killed, according to the report.
The report further documents the deaths of at least 1,704 civilians, including 229 children and 196 women, during the Eid al Fitr holidays that directly follow Ramadan between 2011 and 2019. The Syrian regime killed 1,475 of these civilians, including 211 children and 151 women, while Russian forces killed 30 civilians, including eight children and two women. Meanwhile, at least 25 civilians, including five women, were killed at the hands of factions of the Armed Opposition, while at least 28 more civilians, including one child and four women, were killed at the hands of Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Also, at least 14 civilians, including two women, were killed at the hands of International Coalition forces, while ISIS killed 19 civilians, including six children, and four women. In addition, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed eight civilians, including three women. The report also documents the deaths of 105 civilians, including three children, and 25 women, at the hands of other parties.
The report distributes the toll of victims killed on the Eid al Fitr holidays between 2011 and 2019 according to the years; during Eid al Fitr in 1432 AH corresponding to 2011, at least 48 civilians, including six children and four women, were killed, while in Eid al Fitr 1433 AH corresponding to 2012, at least 816 civilians, including 81 children and 54 women, were killed. In Eid al Fitr 1434 AH corresponding to 2013, at least 218 civilians, including 43 children and 21 women, were killed. The report records the deaths of at least 193 civilians, including 28 children and 29 women in Eid al Fitr 1435 AH corresponding to 2014, while in Eid al Fitr 1436 AH corresponding to 2015, at least 138 civilians, including 29 children and 26 women, were killed, according to the report.
The report also documents in Eid al Fitr 1435 AH corresponding to 2016 that at least 164 civilians, including 25 children and 44 women, were killed, while in Eid al Fitr, 1438 AH corresponding to 2017, at least 86 civilians, including 10 children and 13 women, were killed. Also, at least 22 civilians, including two children and one woman, were killed in Eid al Fitr 1439 AH corresponding to 2018, while in Eid al Fitr, 1440 AH corresponding to 2019, at least 19 civilians, including five children and four women, were killed.
The report stresses that all the attacks included in the report were directed against civilians and civilian objects, further noting that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have committed a wide variety of crimes, with the attacks and indiscriminate bombardment by the alliance causing the destruction of facilities and buildings. In addition, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases, as well as deliberate attacks against places of worship.
The report notes that international humanitarian law strongly prohibits attacks on protected objects, which must be protected in times of international and internal armed conflict, and prohibits indiscriminate, deliberate or reprisal attacks against these objects. This prohibition is based on the principle of distinction. Cultural objects and places of worship are among the most notable protected objects, representing the cultural and religious heritage of peoples and minorities, and should not be subjected to deliberate or indiscriminate attack or be used in the war effort according to Protocol 2, Article 16.
The report stresses that the Syrian government has violated international humanitarian law, customary law, and all UN Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 2139, resolution 2042, and resolution 2254, all without any accountability.
According to the report, extremist Islamist groups have violated international humanitarian law by killing civilians. Also, Coalition forces “International Coalition forces and Syrian Democratic Forces” launched attacks that amount to a violate of customary international humanitarian law, causing incidental loss of civilian lives or collateral injury to civilians.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to take additional steps following its adoption of Resolution 2254, and stresses the importance of referring the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court, adding that all those who are responsible should be held accountable including the Russian regime whose involvement in war crimes has been repeatedly proven.
The report calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine after all political channels have proved fruitless through all agreements, the Cessation of Hostilities statements, and Astana agreements that followed, stressing the need to resort to Chapter VII, and to implement the norm of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly.
The report calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to launch investigations into the cases included in this report and previous reports, and confirms the SNHR’s willingness to cooperate and provide further evidence and data.
The report also calls on the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria to condemn the perpetrators of crimes and massacres and those who were primarily responsible for dooming the de-escalation agreements and the Sochi Agreement, to reschedule the peace process so that it can resume its natural course despite Russia’s attempts to divert and distort it, and to empower the Constitutional Commission prior to the establishment of a transitional governing body.
The report also calls on the International Coalition forces to acknowledge that some of their bombing operations have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, and demands that the coalition launch serious investigations, as well as compensating and apologizing to the victims and all those affected.
The report stresses that the states supporting the SDF should 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, adding that all forms of support, military and all others, should be ended.
The report also calls on the Armed Opposition factions to ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, and urges them to investigate incidents that have resulted in civilian casualties, as well as calling on them to take care to distinguish between civilians and military targets and to cease any indiscriminate attacks.
Lastly, the report stresses the need for international organizations to develop urgent operational plans to secure decent shelter for internally displaced persons.