Syrian-Russian Alliance Continues Bombing Schools and Hospitals and Using Cluster Munitions Up to the End of 2019
The SNHR released its monthly special report today, documenting the human rights situation in Syria and outlining the most notable human rights violations that the SNHR documented in 2019, particularly in December, at the hands of the perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria, noting that the Syrian-Russian alliance forces continued bombing schools and hospitals and using cluster munitions up to the end of 2019.
The 38-page report outlines the record of the most notable violations SNHR documented in 2019, particularly in December, at the hands of the perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria, including the civilian death toll of victims who were killed by the 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 incidents of attack on civilian objects.
The report includes records of these violations distributed according to each of the 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 US-led coalition, 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. In addition, in cases where we are unable to definitively assign responsibility for a particular violation 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.
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.
As the report notes, SNHR documented the deaths of 3,364 civilians in 2019, including 842 children and 486 women (adult female), the largest percent of whom were killed by Syrian-Russian alliance forces; among the victims were 26 medical personnel, 13 media workers and 17 Civil Defense personnel. The report also documents the deaths of 305 individuals due to torture, and at least 109 massacres. The report further reveals that December saw the deaths of 234 civilians, including 65 children and 44 women (adult female); among the victims were three Civil Defense personnel. The report also documents the deaths of 17 individuals in December due to torture, and at least 14 massacres.
The report reveals that SNHR documented at least 4,671 cases of arbitrary arrests in 2019, including 224 children and 205 women (adult female), at the hands of the main perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria. The largest number of arrests was carried out by Syrian Regime forces in Damascus Suburbs, followed by Daraa then Deir Ez-Zour governorate. The report reveals that at least 178 arbitrary arrests, including one child and eight women (adult female), were carried out at the hands of the perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria in December 2019. The largest number of arrests was carried out by Syrian Regime forces in Damascus Suburbs then Aleppo governorate.
As the report states, 2019 saw at least 871 incidents of attacks on vital civilian facilities, 725 of which were carried out at the hands of Syria-Russian alliance forces in northwest Syria. Among these attacks, 215 were on schools, 98 were on medical facilities and 197 others were on places of worship.
As the report notes, the SNHR team in December documented at least 110 incidents of attacks on vital civilian facilities, 105 of which were carried out at the hands of Syria-Russian alliance forces, mostly in Idlib governorate. The report adds that among these attacks, 30 were on schools, four on medical facilities and 29 on places of worship.
The report also reveals that Syrian-Russian alliance forces carried out at least 56 cluster munition attacks in 2019, all of which were concentrated in the Idlib and Hama governorates. The Syrian regime was responsible for carrying out 52 of these attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 64 civilians, including 22 children and 14 women (adult female), and injured 132 others. Among these attacks was one in December in Idlib governorate which was carried out at the hands of Syrian Regime forces and resulted in two civilians sustaining injuries, while Russian forces carried out four cluster munition attacks in 2019, distributed in Hama and Idlib governorates, which injured four individuals.
The report also documents at least 22 incendiary weapons attacks in 2019, all of which were carried out by Syrian Regime targeting populated areas away from frontlines.
As the report reveals, Syrian Regime forces carried out one chemical weapon attack in 2019, on al Kbaina village in the suburbs of Latakia governorate. This attack resulted in the injury of four of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s fighters.
The report adds that at least seven attacks using nail-filled missiles were documented in 2019, all of which were carried out by Syrian Regime forces in Idlib governorate.
The report further adds that the SNHR documented at least 4,378 barrel bombs being dropped in 2019 by the Syrian Regime’s air force, including helicopters and fixed-wing warplanes, on the fourth de-escalation zone, which resulted in the deaths of 105 civilians, including 26 children and 26 women, with at least 93 of these attacks being perpetrated against civilian vital facilities. The report notes that of these barrel bombs, 453 were documented as being dropped in December, which resulted in the deaths of 15 civilians, including seven children and three women, all in Idlib governorate, in addition to at least 28 attacks on vital civilian facilities during the same period.
The report reveals that the evidence gathered by SNHR indicates that attacks were directed against civilians and civilian objects. Syrian-Russian alliance forces committed various crimes such as 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, 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.
The report further reveals that extremist Islamist groups carried out extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture, also noting 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 provide 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 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 individuals involved accountable. In addition, the report demands that the Russian regime, as a guarantor party in Astana talks, must stop thwarting de-escalation agreements, achieve a breakthrough on 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 ceased unless the SDF stops all its violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The report also notes that the SDF should form a special committee to investigate incidents of violations committed by SDF members, disclose the details of their findings and apologize for them, hold those responsible accountable, and compensate the victims and affected.
The report calls on the Operation Peace Spring alliance to investigate incidents that resulted in civilian victims and to determine the causes behind them, to apologize for these, to compensate the victims and to hold those responsible accountable, as well as to work 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.
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.