Displacements Continue in Northwest Syria Under the Worst Humanitarian Conditions Since the Beginning of the Popular Uprising
The SNHR released its monthly special report today, which documents the human rights situation in Syria, outlining the most notable human rights violations that the SNHR documented in January 2020 at the hands of the main perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria, noting that displacements continue in northwest Syria under the worst humanitarian conditions since the beginning of the popular uprising.
The 27-page report outlines the most notable violations documented by SNHR in January, including the record of civilian victims 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, nail missiles) 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 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.
The report documents in January the deaths of 286 civilians, including 73 children and 30 women (adult female), as well as one medical worker and three Civil Defense personnel, the largest percentage of whom were killed by Syrian-Russian alliance forces. It also documents the deaths of seven individuals who died due to torture, and at least 11 massacres.
The report also documents at least 161 cases of arbitrary arrests, including two children and one woman (adult female), at the hands of the main perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria, with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian Regime forces in Damascus Suburbs and Deir Ez-Zour governorates.
According to the report, at least 111 attacks on vital civilian facilities were recorded in January, 105 of which were carried out by Syrian-Russian alliance forces, most of which were in Idlib governorate, of which 14 attacks were on schools, three were on medical facilities and 33 others were on places of worship.
The report documents in January at least three cluster munition attacks carried out by Syrian Regime forces, all in Idlib governorate, which resulted in the deaths of nine civilians, including six children and two women, and injured 22 other civilians.
The report documents in January at least 353 barrel bombs dropped by Syrian regime’s air force, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, targeting the governorates of Idlib, Aleppo and Hama, which resulted in the deaths of five civilians, including one child and two women, and at least 21 attacks on vital civilian facilities. The report notes that the Syrian regime has used barrel bombs in Aleppo governorate for the first time since February 2018.
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 US-led 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, extremist Islamist 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 US-led coalition 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, empowering the Constitutional Committee 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, 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 83,000 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 US-led coalition 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 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.