COVID-19 Threatens the Lives of Millions of Syrians, with the Syrian Regime and Its Allies Amassing Forces to Bomb More Areas in and around Idlib
(Link below to download full report)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released its monthly special report summarizing the human rights situation in Syria, outlining the most notable human rights violations documented by the SNHR in July 2020 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that COVID-19 threatens the lives of millions of Syrians, with the Syrian regime and its allies amassing forces to bomb more areas in and around Idlib.
The 25-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in July 2020, including the death toll of civilian victims who were killed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces, as well as the record of cases of arrests and enforced disappearances. The report also highlights indiscriminate attacks, the use of outlawed weapons (cluster munitions, chemical weapons, barrel bombs, incendiary weapons), and attacks 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.
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 notes that since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the Syrian regime has dealt with it with callous, total and extreme disregard and total negligence. The report also notes that the whole of Syrian society suffers from mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis, in all areas of control, with the report detailing examples of this. In addition, the report states that all the regions of Syria, particularly Idlib and surrounding areas, that have witnessed bombings, destruction and forced displacement are suffering from further challenges in addition to the usual ones, due to the continuous displacement waves these have witnessed, with exceptional humanitarian aid efforts required to focus particularly on these people in the areas to which they were displaced. The report also reveals that the Syrian regime and its Russian ally have been primary accused of the targeting, bombing and destruction of most medical facilities in Syria, and the killing and arresting/ detaining of hundreds of medical personnel, as documented on the SNHR’s database. The report adds that the regime’s failure to release arbitrarily detained individuals, particularly the elderly and individuals detained with no charges, provides further clear evidence of the Syrian regime’s primary responsibility for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Syria, as it controls and manages state institutions.
The report documents the deaths of 107 civilians in July, including 26 children and 11 women (adult female). Among the victims were 13 individuals who died due to torture, and at least four massacres.
The report further documents at least 157 cases of arbitrary arrests in July at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including 13 children and two women (adult female), with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian Regime forces in the governorates of Damascus Suburbs then Daraa.
In addition to these incidents, the report also documents at least eight attacks on vital civilian facilities in July, four of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, one at the hands of Russian forces, and three as a result of bombing, with the report so far unable to identify the perpetrators. Among these attacks, two were on schools, one was on a medical facility and two others were on places of worship.
The report reveals that evidence gathered by SNHR indicates that attacks have been directed against civilians and civilian objects. Syrian-Russian alliance forces have continued to commit various crimes of extrajudicial killings, arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance. In addition, the indiscriminate attacks they have 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 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 in 2011, providing further blatant evidence of these forces’ total disregard for the lives of civilians in Syria.
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 adds that Syrian Democratic Forces must immediately stop conscripting children, hold the officers involved in such violations accountable, and pledge to return all children who have been arrested for conscription immediately.
The report also 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.