SNHR Documented 13 Massacres and 27 Persons Who Died due to Torture
The SNHR announced in its monthly report released today that at least 277 civilians, including two media workers, three medical personnel and two Civil Defense personnel, were documented killed as a result of the conflict in Syria in November 2019 at the hands of the main perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria, in addition to 27 persons who died due to torture.
The 23-page report states that the crime of murder has become widespread and systematic, mainly at the hands of Syrian regime forces and their affiliated militias, adding that the entry of several parties into the Syrian conflict has increased the importance and complexity of documenting the victims killed in Syria.
The report notes that since 2011, the Syrian Network for Human Rights has created complex electronic programs to archive and categorize the victims’ data, enabling the network to catalogue victims according to the gender and location where each was killed, the governorate from which each victim originally came, and the party responsible for the killing, and to make comparisons between these parties, and identify the governorates which lost the largest proportion of residents. The report catalogues the death toll of victims according to the governorate in which they were killed, rather than by the governorate they originally came from.
This report records the death toll of victims documented killed by the main perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria in November 2019, particularly focusing on the victims amongst children and women, those who died due to torture, and victims amongst media and medical personnel, paying particular attention to the massacres committed by the main perpetrator parties to the conflict over the past month.
The report includes the distribution of the death toll of victims killed by each of the main perpetrator parties in the Syrian conflict, noting that in regard to joint attacks, when SNHR is unable to definitively assign responsibility for specific attacks to one specific party, as in the case of air strikes by Syrian or Russian warplanes, Syrian-Iranian attacks, or attacks by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and US-led coalition, we indicate that responsibility for these attacks is held jointly by the parties in question until we are able to establish with a high degree of probability 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. In addition, in cases where we are unable to definitively assign responsibility for a particular killing to one of two possible parties because of the area’s proximity to the lines of engagement, the use of similar weapons, or other reasons, the incident is categorized among ‘other parties’ until we have sufficient evidence to conclusively assign responsibility for the violation to one of the two parties.
As the report states, on October 9, 2019, the military operations of the Operation Peace Spring between the Operation Peace Spring forces (Turkish and Syrian National Army forces) and Syrian Democratic Forces in north-east Syria began. Military operations related to this operation have been conducted within Syrian territory bordering the Syrian-Turkish border in areas controlled by the SDF and factions of the Armed Opposition, with these operations resulting in the deaths of civilians in Syria and in the neighboring countries; the death toll of victims included in this report includes civilian victims who were killed in neighboring countries as a result of the conflict in Syria. The report notes that what it documents represents the bare minimum of the death toll of victims who were killed as a result of the internal armed conflict in Syria, given that the Syrian Network for Human Rights’ access to contacts and information sources useful in its investigations varies according to the authority controlling the area in question, mainly in relation to the extent of violations suffered by the area during the last eight years of conflict.
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 the deaths of 277 civilians in November, including 72 children and 32 women (adult female). This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 56 civilians, including 19 children and six women, killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while 70 civilians, including 26 children and 11 women, were killed at the hands of Russian forces, and five civilians were killed at the hands of ISIS, and six others, including one child and one woman, were killed at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, while four civilians were killed at the hands of Turkistan Islamic Party.
The report also documents in November the deaths of one civilian at the hands of factions of the Armed Opposition, and six civilians, including two children, were killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, while three civilians were killed at the hands of US-led coalition.
The report also documents 126 civilians, including 24 children and 14 women, killed at the hands of other parties.
The report records that among the victims were three of the medical personnel, two of whom were killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while the third was killed as a result of an explosion, with the report being unable to identify the party responsible for it. the report adds that two media workers were also documented killed in November, one at the hands of Syrian Regime forces and the other by the forces of Operation Peace Spring. According to the report, two Civil Defense personnel were also documented killed, one at the hands of Syrian Regime forces and the other by the Turkistan Islamic Party forces.
According to the report, the SNHR’s working team documented at least 27 persons died due to torture in November, 25 of whom were killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while the other two at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces.
The report also documents 13 massacres in November, one was committed by Syrian Regime forces, four by Russian forces, and seven as a result of bombings, with the report being unable to identify the party responsible for them, and one in an explosion of landmines of unknown origin, using the term ‘massacre’ to refer to an attack that caused the death of at least five peaceful individuals in the same incident.
The report stresses that the Syrian government has violated international humanitarian law and customary law, and all UN Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 2139, resolution 2042, and resolution 2254, all without any accountability.
The report notes that there is no record of any warnings being issued by the Syrian Regime or Russian 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 for freedom, providing another blatant demonstration of these forces’ total disregard for the lives of civilians in Syria.
According to the report, Extremist Islamist groups have violated international humanitarian law by killing civilians, while the indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment carried out by an alliance of forces comprising US-led coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces is considered a violation of customary international humanitarian law, inadvertently causing loss of civilian lives or injuries to civilians.
The report calls on the 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 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 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 failure, to re-sequence 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 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 people involved accountable, as well as demanding that the Russian regime, as a guarantor party in Astana talks, should stop thwarting de-escalation agreements.
The report also stresses that the Syrian regime must stop the indiscriminate shelling and targeting residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, as well as ending the acts of torture that have caused the deaths of thousands of Syrian citizens in detention centers, and complying with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
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 ceased unless the SDF stops all its violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The report 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.
As the report states, Operation Peace Spring alliance should investigate the incidents that resulted in civilian victims and determine the causes behind them, apologize for these, compensate the victims and hold those responsible accountable, as well as working to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. The report adds that the committee established by the Defense Ministry of the Syrian Interim Government to investigate abuses and breaches should publish the findings of its investigations into violations on a dedicated website, update this data regularly, issue recommendations and follow up on their implementation.
Lastly, the report stresses the need for international organizations to develop urgent operational plans to secure decent shelter for internally displaced persons.