SNHR Documented 30 Massacres and 71 Victims Who Died Due to Torture
(Link below to download full report)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced in its monthly report released today that at least 1,006 civilians, including three media workers and 12 medical and Civil Defense personnel, were documented killed in the first half of 2020 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in addition to documenting 30 massacres and 71 victims who died due to torture during the same period.
The 28-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 SNHR 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 parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in June and the first half of 2020, particularly focusing on the victims amongst children and women, those who died due to torture, and victims amongst media, medical and Civil Defense personnel, paying particular attention to the massacres committed by the main perpetrator parties to the conflict over the past month.
As the report reveals, the statistics provided for the death toll of victims include those related to extrajudicial killings by the controlling forces in each area which occurred as a violation of both International Human Rights Law or International Humanitarian Law, and do not include deaths arising from natural causes or those caused by disputes between individual members of society.
The report includes the distribution of the death toll of victims according to the perpetrator parties, 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.
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 states that the Syrian regime bears the primary responsibility for the deaths of Syrian citizens due to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the Syrian regime and its Russian ally have repeatedly been documented as having targeted, bombed and destroyed most medical facilities in Syria, and killed hundreds of medical personnel, according to the SNHR’s database, with dozens of these lifesaving medics being still classified as forcibly disappeared at the regime’s hands, noting that nearly 3,327 medical personnel are still detained or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime.
The report notes that it does not include all deaths, including those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the report mainly documents extrajudicial killings, further noting that the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health has announced the deaths of nine cases in Syria due to the COVID-19, describing this statistic as inaccurate, given the absence of any transparency in the various government ministries, and in view of the supervision of the security services on what is issued by these ministries, which is the case with totalitarian regimes.
As the report reveals, the beginning of 2020 was accompanied by a violent military operation led by the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies against the areas outside its control in and around Idlib. The cities and residential neighborhoods in these areas were subjected to massive and indiscriminate bombardment, which resulted in dozens of deaths and the displacement of residents of entire cities, as happened with Ma’aret al Numan and Saraqeb cities and others. The first and second months of the year also saw a marked increase in the death toll.
The report notes that the last three months saw the decrease in the death toll compared to the first three months of the year, with the report attributing this to the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement entered into force, and to the COVID-19 pandemic which has spread extensively in most countries worldwide, including Syria, where the pandemic appears to have affected the capabilities of the Syrian regime’s army and affiliated Iranian militias, contributing to decreasing bombardment against civilians.
The report documents the deaths of 1,006 civilians in the first half of 2020, including 218 children and 1113 women (adult female). This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 298 of the civilians, including 64 children and 24 women, killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while 205 civilians, including 62 children and 48 women, were killed at the hands of Russian forces, and seven civilians, including one child, were killed at the hands of ISIS, while 17 civilians, including one woman, were killed by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham.
The report also documents the deaths of nine civilians, including two children and one woman at the hands of the Armed Opposition and the Syrian National Army, while Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces killed 34 civilians, including eight children and one women. The report also documents 436 civilians, including 81 children and 38 women, killed at the hands of other parties.
According to the report, the SNHR’s Victim Documentation team documented in June the deaths of 96 civilians, including 11 children and 10 women (adult female). This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 26 of the civilians, including five children and one woman, killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while four civilians, including one woman, were killed at the hands of Russian forces, and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed five civilians, including one woman.
The report also documents the deaths of four civilians, including one child, at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, while 57 civilians, including five children and seven women, killed at the hands of other parties.
The report records that among the victims were nine of the medical personnel killed in the first half of 2020, four of whom were killed by Russian forces, while Syrian Regime forces and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed one each, and three were killed at the hands of other parties.
The report also documents that three of the media workers were killed in the first half of 2020, two of whom at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while Russian forces killed one media worker.
The report also documents that three of the Civil Defense personnel were killed in the first half of 2020, all of whom at the hands of Syrian Regime forces.
According to the report, the SNHR’s working team documented at least 71 individuals who died due to torture in the first half of 2020; 63 of these victims died at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed one, three at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and four at the hands of other parties. According to the report, 14 individuals were documented killed as a result of torture in June, all of whom at the hands of Syrian Regime forces.
The report also documents 30 massacres in the first half of 2020, using the term ‘massacre’ to refer to an attack that caused the death of at least five peaceful individuals in the same incident. According to this definition, the report records in the first half of 2019 nine massacres committed by Syrian Regime forces, 11 by Russian forces, one by Syrian Democratic Forces, and nine massacres committed by other parties. The report also documents two massacres in June, both committed by other parties.
Based on the SNHR’s database, the report makes a number of comparisons of the death toll of victims whom SNHR documented their killing by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in the first half of this year, and the corresponding death toll of victims whom SNHR documented their killing in the first half of the past year, 2019.
The charts outlined in the report shows a decrease in the total death toll, and a variable decrease in the death toll recorded at the hands of each party to the conflict and the controlling forces in 2020 compared to 2019, with the report attributing this to several factors, most notably that May, June and the last week of April 2019 had seen a military campaign by Syrian-Russian alliance forces in the Idlib region, northwest Syria, while the same region has been subject to ceasefire agreements since the beginning of 2020. The charts also saw a decrease in the death toll of victims who were killed by ISIS and by the US-led coalition forces, due to the defeat of ISIS and the decrease of its control over vast areas.
According to the report, the evidence it collected indicates that the attacks documented were directed against civilians and civilian objects. Syrian-Russian alliance forces have committed various crimes ranging from extrajudicial killings to detention, torture and enforced disappearance. Their attacks and indiscriminate bombardment have resulted in the destruction of facilities and buildings. The report notes that 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 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, 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 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 and the Syrian National Army 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 humanitarian organizations to develop urgent operational plans to secure decent shelter for internally displaced persons.