International Coalition Against ISIS Must Immediately Begin Compensating Victims and Preparing for Local Elections in Northeastern Syria
BY: Amnesty International – 25/04/2019
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) states in its latest report, released today to mark the fifth anniversary of the intervention of the International Coalition forces against the ISIS terrorist group in Syria, that International Coalition forces must immediately begin compensating the victims and preparing for local elections in northeast Syria.
The SNHR laude the positive achievements of the International Coalition forces acknowledged in their last report, in which they noted that that the Coalition had conducted nearly 34,000 strikes as part of its operations to eliminate ISIS in Syria and Iraq and that its operations had helped to liberate nearly 110,000 square kilometers of land from ISIS control and to free 7.7 million people oppressed by the organization.
The report notes that whilst no-one can deny the Coalition’s contribution to defeating ISIS and undermining its grip on large swathes of Syria, unfortunately in many of these attacks, the International Coalition forces have failed to comply with the rules of customary humanitarian law, with these violations being perpetrated repeatedly, increasing the human and material cost. In terms of destruction caused by the International Coalition forces’ attacks, the report estimates that around 80 percent of Raqqa city was partially or totally destroyed in these attacks, which also partially or totally destroyed around 70 percent of the area between Hajin city and al Baghouz town in the eastern suburbs of Deir Ez-Zour.
The nine-page report compares the incidents of violations reported in the International Coalition Command’s reports, and cross-checks these with the SNHR’s database. The review processes conclude that although the International Coalition forces have admitted to the killing of 1,31`3 civilians in both Syria and Iraq, the death toll acknowledged by the Coalition in Syria and Iraq is only 43 percent of what the SNHR has documented in Syria alone.
The report further calls on the other states participating in the International Coalition to issue reports and investigations into incidents of violations in which civilians were killed, in the same way as the United States has done, explaining that this is the basis for knowing which country carried out the attacks that resulted in casualties. In this context, the report states that the British Ministry of Defense’ statement, in which it acknowledged the loss of only one civilian as a result of strikes carried out by the Royal Air Force on areas controlled by ISIS in Syrian and Iraq, does not suggest significant credibility.
The report outlines the strategy followed by International Coalition forces in the fifth year of their intervention, during which the International Coalition’s airstrikes between September 2018 and March 2019 were concentrated on the Hajin area; thanks to these strikes, the SDF was able to establish control over it, the report notes, adding that the Intensive airstrikes carried out by the International Coalition forces forced hundreds of ISIS members to surrender with their families and give themselves up to SDF forces who held them in al Hawl Camp in the suburbs of Hasaka. After March 2019, the report reveals, the type of military operations in the area changed to joint patrols between the International Coalition forces and the SDF to target the remaining ISIS cells. Despite supposedly being carefully planned and carried out to ensure high levels of accuracy, the report reveals, these operations have led to civilian casualties.
The report documents the deaths of 3,037 civilians, including 924 children, and 656 women (adult female) at the hands of International Coalition forces since the start of their military intervention in Syria up until September 23, 2019. The report includes the distribution of the death toll according to the years of intervention, with the third and fourth years witnessing the highest record of victims. The report also includes the distribution of the death toll by governorate, with Raqqa governorate saw the highest death toll, followed by the governorates of Aleppo and Deir Ez-Zour.
The report reveals that at least 172 massacres were committed by International Coalition forces, along with at least 181 attacks on vital civilian facilities, 25 of which were on schools, 16 on medical facilities, and four on markets, since the start of their military intervention in Syria up until September 23, 2019.
The report also notes that at least five incendiary munitions attacks have been carried out by International Coalition forces since the start of their military intervention in Syria up until September 23, 2019.
The report reveals that the military operations in the governorates of Raqqa, Deir Ez-Zour and Hasaka caused the displacement of at least 560,000 people, noting that International Coalition forces and the SDF bear responsibility for their displacement, along with the ISIS terrorist organization, which used many as human shields.
The report recommends that the Joint Command of the International Coalition forces should ensure political and economic stability in areas freed from ISIS control and make greater efforts to achieve democratically elected local governance and thereafter to support this economically and politically elected local body, thereby achieving political and social security and stability in those areas.
The report also calls on the International Coalition to open investigations into violations and abuses by the SDF and hold its leaders responsible for oil and gas smuggling operations to areas controlled by the Syrian regime, which has been subjected to economic sanctions by the US administration in particular, which is a key supporter of the SDF.
The report also urges the International Coalition to establish a mechanism to monitor financial revenues from the sale of oil and gas to ensure greater transparency and to prevent a large proportion of that money from being transferred to the PKK, which is classified as a terrorist organization, with such actions implicating the SDF in supporting and financing global terrorism.
The report stresses the need to request that the leadership of the SDF disclose all the money it has received from oil and gas since 2012 to date and provide a financial statement on where and how the money was spent, noting that funds may have been stolen for private accounts or for use in financing and supporting terrorism, adding that the backers of the SDF and PYD must end this support fully and immediately if they are proven to be transferring funds from Syria’s oil and gas revenues to the terrorist PKK.
The report also calls on the Joint Command of the International Coalition forces to support the coalition team working on investigating and following up on incidents with more manpower, and increase the current level of efforts and capabilities in this regard in order to dedicate greater attention to this issue, as well as creating a data map showing the areas worst affected by aerial attacks, and making greater efforts towards starting to address the economic and moral ramifications resulting from those attacks.
The report stresses the need to work seriously to provide the means for making a decent life for the forcibly displaced in displacement camps, and to publicly hold perpetrators of crimes to account and remove all those proven by investigations to have been involved in attacks that caused massacres against civilians.
The report also calls on the Joint Command of the International Coalition forces to assist the Syrian community in eliminating terrorist groups akin to ISIS, such as those terrorist groups supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran which have already begun to establish bases in Aleppo and Damascus Suburbs.
The report further calls on the International Coalition to provide appropriate medical care for those injured and wounded as a result of bombardment by International Coalition forces or the SDF, and to work to establish several medical centers in the most affected areas.
The report includes recommendations that more logistical and material support should be provided to help in the exhumation process from mass graves in areas which ISIS withdrew from, and that pressure should put on Syrian Democratic Forces to allocate a larger proportion of material resources in this regard, so that this process is not later deemed to be mismanagement of the remains and forensic mishandling, in which the Syrian Democratic Forces may be part of the same violations.
The report also calls on the Joint Command of the International Coalition forces to put pressure on Syrian Democratic Forces not to limit their efforts and resources to arming and stockpiling ammunition, and to make greater efforts in civilian operations and provide assistance to the local community.
The report urges the OHCHR to follow up on the issue of the forcibly displaced persons living in SDF-held areas, to issue a report on the violations they are experiencing and on the repercussions of the illegal attacks of International Coalition forces in Syria.
Finally, the report calls on Syrian Democratic Forces to prepare for local civil elections and for the transfer from military authority to democratically elected civilian leadership, and to refrain from any form of association or coordination with the PKK, which is classified as a terrorist organization, and to completely prohibit the publication of pictures of the PKK leader