Documentation of nearly 43 Cluster Munitions Attacks and 17 Incendiary Weapons Attacks by Syrian-Russian Alliance Forces in the Fourth De-Escalation Zone
The SNHR released its monthly special report today, which documents the human rights situation in Syria in the first half of 2019, outlining the most notable human rights violations at the hands of the main perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria.
The 33-page report outlines the record of civilian victims documented in June and in the first half of 2019 who were killed by the main parties to the conflict, as well as the record of cases of arrests and enforced disappearance. The report also highlights indiscriminate attacks and the use of outlawed weapons (cluster munitions, chemical weapons, barrel bombs, incendiary weapons) and attacks on civilian objects.
The report includes records of these violations distributed according to each of the main perpetrator parties responsible. Accurately ascribing responsibility sometimes requires more time and investigation than usual, especially in the case of joint attacks. On some occasions, when we are unable to definitively assign responsibility for specific attacks to one particular party, as in the case of air strikes by Syrian or Russian warplanes, Syrian-Iranian attacks, or attacks by Syrian Democratic Forces and International Coalition forces, we indicate that responsibility for these attacks is held jointly by the parties in question until we are able to likely establish which one of the parties was responsible, or it’s proved that the attack was a joint initiative carried out in coordination between the two parties.
The report draws upon the ongoing daily monitoring of news and developments, and on an extensive network of relations with various sources, in addition to analyzing a large number of photographs and videos.
The report documents in the first half of 2019 the deaths of 1,864 civilians, including 468 children and 285 women (adult female); this total includes 15 medical personnel, six media workers, and six members of the Civil Defense personnel, with the highest rate of killings being carried out at the hands of the Syrian-Russian alliance forces. It also documents the deaths of 159 individuals who died due to torture, and at least 59 massacres.
The report documents in June the deaths of 347 civilians, including 91 children and 39 women (adult female), as well as four medical personnel, two media workers, and two members of the Civil Defense personnel. It also documents the deaths of 18 individuals who died due to torture, and at least 12 massacres during the same period.
The report also documents in the first half of 2019 at least 2,460 cases of arbitrary arrests, including 117 children, 122 women (adult female), at the hands of the main perpetrator parties in Syria, with the largest number of these carried out by Syrian Regime forces in of Damascus Suburbs governorate, followed by the governorates of Aleppo and Damascus.
The report documents in June at least 336 cases of arbitrary arrests, including 14 children, 10 women (adult female), with the largest number of these carried out by Syrian Regime forces in Damascus Suburbs governorate, followed by Damascus governorate.
The report documents in the first half of 2019 at least 435 attacks on vital civilian facilities, 87 percent of which were carried out at the hands of the Syrian-Russian alliance forces, all in the fourth and final de-escalation zone (consisting of Idlib governorate and parts of the governorates of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia). Among these attacks, 115 were on schools, 56 were on medical facilities and 88 others were on places of worship
According to the report, at least 84 attacks on vital civilian facilities were recorded in June, of which 22 attacks were on schools, nine were on medical facilities and 20 others were on places of worship, with the highest rate of attacks being carried out at the hands of the Syrian-Russian alliance forces by carrying out 79 attacks, all of which were carried out in the fourth de-escalation zone
The report details the record of indiscriminate and outlawed attacks documented in the first half of 2019, where Syrian-Russian alliance forces carried out at least 43 cluster munitions attacks, all in the governorates of Idlib and Hama, 41 of which were carried out by Syrian Regime forces, most of which were carried out by artillery forces, and resulted in the deaths of 38 civilians, including eight children and eight woman (adult female), and injured 77 others. Nine of these attacks were took place in June, all in Idlib governorate at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, and resulted in the deaths of four civilians, including one woman, and injured four others.
The report also documents at least 17 incendiary weapons attacks, all of which were carried out by Syrian Regime forces in the first half of 2019, including seven attacks were documented in June. These attacks took place in populated areas away from frontlines.
The report documents in the first half of 2019 the Syrian Regime forces carrying out one attack using chemical weapons on May 19, which targeted a base used by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham on a hill in the southwestern outskirts of al Kbaina village in the suburbs of Latakia governorate.
The report documents in in the first half of 2019 at least 1,583 barrel bombs dropped by Syrian regime’s air force, fixed-wing and helicopters, all of which in the fourth de-escalation zone, which resulted in the deaths of 43 civilians, including seven children and 13 women, as well as damaging at least 28 vital civilian facilities.
The report also documents in June at least 622 barrel bombs, which resulted in the deaths of four civilians, including two children and one woman, as well as damaging one vital civilian facility.
The report reveals that the evidence we gathered indicates that attacks were directed against civilians and civilian objects. Syrian-Russian alliance forces committed various crimes of extrajudicial killings, arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance. In addition, the indiscriminate attacks they carried out caused the destruction of various facilities and other buildings. There are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.
The report stresses that the Syrian government has violated international humanitarian law and customary law, and a number of UN Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 2139, resolution 2042 on the release of detainees, and resolution 2254, all without any accountability.
SNHR was unable to find any records of any warnings being issued by the Syrian Regime, or by Russian or International Coalition forces prior to any attack in accordance with the requirements of international humanitarian law. This has been the case since the beginning of the popular uprising in 2011, providing further blatant evidence of these forces’ total disregard for the lives of civilians in Syria.
According to the report, Islamist extremist groups carried out extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture. The report adds that the instances of indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment carried out by the alliance of International Coalition forces and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are considered to be in clear violation of international humanitarian law, with indiscriminate killings amounting to war crimes.
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 also calls on the Security Council to adopt a resolution banning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, similar to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and to include advice on how to safely remove the remnants of such dangerous weapons.
The report also requests that all relevant United Nations agencies make greater efforts to provide food, medical and humanitarian assistance in areas where fighting has ceased, and in internally displaced persons camps, and to follow up with those States that have pledged voluntary contributions.
The report calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ 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, 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 government.
The report emphasizes that the Russian regime must launch investigations into the incidents included in this report, make the findings of these investigations public for the Syrian people, and hold the individuals involved accountable, and demands that the Russian regime, as a guarantor party in Astana talks, should stop thwarting de-escalation agreements, achieve a breakthrough in the issue of detainees by revealing the fate of those forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime, and stop using cluster munitions and incendiary weapons.
The report also stresses that the Syrian regime must stop the indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, and stop using prohibited munitions and barrel bombs, as well as ending the acts of torture that have caused the deaths of thousands of Syrian citizens in detention centers. The report adds that the Syrian Regime must also reveal the fate of 82,000 Syrian citizens previously arrested by the regime’s own security apparatus, whose fate it has concealed to date, and comply with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
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.