Including 234 in December
The SNHR announced in its report released today that at least 3,364 civilians were documented killed in 2019 at the hands of the perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria, including 234 in December.
The 27-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 perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria in 2019 and in December of the same year in particular. The report also particularly focuses 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 parties to the conflict over the past year.
The report includes the distribution of the death toll of victims killed by each of the perpetrator parties in Syria, 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 SNHR’s ongoing daily monitoring of news and developments, and on its extensive network of relations with various sources, in addition to analyzing a large number of photographs and videos.
The report documents the deaths of 3,364 civilians in 2019, including 842 children and 486 women (adult female). This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 1,497 civilians, including 371 children and 224 women, killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while 452 civilians, including 112 children and 71 women, were killed at the hands of Russian forces, and 94 civilians, including 11 children and seven women, killed by ISIS. Meanwhile, 49 others were killed at the hands of extremist Islamist groups, of whom Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed 45 civilians, including six children and two women, while four civilians were killed at the hands of Turkistan Islamic Party.
The report also documents in 2019 the deaths of 21 civilians, including eight children and one woman, killed at the hands of factions of the Armed Opposition, and 164 civilians, including 50 children and 15 women, were killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, while 68 civilians, including 20 children and 17 women, were killed at the hands of US-led coalition.
The report also documents 1,019 civilians, including 264 children and 149 women, killed at the hands of other parties in 2019.
As the report states, the SNHR’s documentation team documented the deaths of 234 civilians in December 2019, including 65 children and 44 women (adult female), with 113 civilians, including 28 children and 20 women, killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while 62 civilians, including 18 children and 13 women, were killed at the hands of Russian forces, and two civilians were killed at the hands of ISIS. The report also documents the deaths of seven civilians, including one child and one woman, were killed at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham in December 2019, while two civilians, including one child, were killed at the hands of factions of the Armed Opposition.
The report also documents in December the deaths of six civilians, including two children and two women at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, while 42 civilians, including 15 children and eight women, were killed at the hands of other parties.
The report records that among the victims killed in 2019 were 26 medical personnel, 14 of whom were killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while six others were killed by Russian forces, with one medical worker killed by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, another killed by the US-led coalition, and four more killed by other parties.
The report adds that 13 media workers were also documented killed in 2019, six at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, two at the hands of Russian forces, one at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, and four at the hands of other parties.
The report further reveals that 17 Civil Defense personnel were also documented killed in 2019, three at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, nine at the hands of Russian forces, one at the hands of the Turkistan Islamic Party, and four at the hands of other parties, noting that December saw the deaths of three Civil Defense personnel at the hands of other parties.
According to the report, the SNHR’s working team documented the deaths of at least 305 persons due to torture in 2019, 275 of whom were killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, four at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, four at the hands of factions of the Armed Opposition, 13 at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and nine at the hands of other parties. According to the report, 17 persons were documented killed under torture in December, all at the hands of Syrian Regime forces.
The report also documents 109 massacres in 2019, with 43 of these committed by Syrian Regime forces, 22 by Russian forces, six by Syrian Democratic Forces, three by US-led coalition, and 35 by other parties, with the term ‘massacre’ being used to refer to an attack that caused the death of at least five peaceful individuals in the same incident. The report adds that 14 massacres were documented in December, six of which were committed by Syrian Regime forces, four by Russian forces, and four by other parties.
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 further 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 recommends that US-led coalition should unequivocally and sincerely acknowledge that some of their bombing operations have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, calling on the US-led coalition to launch serious investigations, and to compensate and apologize 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 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.
The report further recommends that 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.