Local Council Have to be Protected from Takeover or Dissolvement
Photographer: Mousab Assaf
SNHR has released a report entitled: “Hay’at Tahrir al Sham Commits Wide Violations in Idlib Governorate” which highlights the most notable violations by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) in its attacks on opposition factions to take over Idlib governorate.
The 13-page report sheds light on the most notable violations by HTS (an alliance composed of Fateh al Sham Front and a number of armed opposition factions) including killings, arbitrary arrests, security pursuits, and summons to Sharia Courts that targeted both activists and military fighters between mid-July and August of 2017.
The report notes that HTS has been trying recently to gain local and international legitimacy in their areas of control by attempting to provide social services at the expense of mitigating its oppressive and coercive methods, whereas HTS tried to combine between the two policies at times. In this context, the group’s media wing started promoting and repeating the term “civilian administration”. However, it is quite clear by looking at HTS’s Salafi-Jihadist, extreme structure, framework, and vision that the group is working towards establishing a governance based on its own understanding of the rules of Islamic law, which constantly leads the group to collide, contain, or infiltrate local councils.
The report adds that HTS look at local council as a competitor in the arena of providing services, in addition to the fact that these councils are popular due to their national characteristics that aims to re-establish a state governance on national grounds – a goal that HTS is at odds with, even though most of the group’s members are Syrians. Still, HTS lacks wide social leverage, mainly because of its extreme ideas, foreign leaderships, and widespread clashing with various local factions.
The report contains four accounts for victims who survived the arrest or pursuit attempts made by HTS. The report also documents that no less than 10 civilians, including two children, two victims who died due to torture, and one media activist. In addition, no less than 82 individuals, who are divided into 27 civilians and military fighters, were arrested by HTS in the period of time covered by the report.
According to the report, HTS raided six centers for relief organizations and seized their contents. Most of these raids took place on July 22, 2017.
The report stresses that HTS controls wide areas and imposes its authority on them and the residents living there. The group also has, to a great degree, political body and a hierarchy, and they are bound by the rules of the international human rights law. HTS has perpetrated widespread violations by arrest and enforced-disappearance operations and taking over properties. Also, the group violated the international humanitarian law through indiscriminate shelling that resulted in the killing of many civilians.
The report calls on the international community to provide financial and logistic support for the active local councils who are in conflict, public or unseen, with HTS that is trying to take over or dissolve these councils. Also, the report urges the international community to Support civil society organizations in Idlib governorate, and calls on the international community to add the extreme Shiite Iranian and Iraqi groups, and similar groups, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which are all cross-border and publicly supported by Iran, to lists of terrorist groups. Also, these groups should be targeted and restricted, same as Islamic extreme groups.
Furthermore, the report calls on armed opposition factions that joined HTS to detach themselves from the group, expose their practices, organize awareness campaigns on the ideologies of extreme groups, and how to they infiltrate communities and recruit young fighters in parallel with workshops on respecting and defending basic human rights.
Lastly, the report calls on HTS to immediately stop generating chaos, fighting, and social resentment, respect basic human rights in its areas of control, Immediately release all arbitrarily-arrested detainees, return all seized properties and buildings, and compensate the affected organizations and individuals.