With the End of ISIS in Syria, International Coalition Forces Must Open Further Investigations and Compensate the Victims
BY: Delil Souleiman/UNICEF
In its latest report, released today, the Syrian Network for Human Rights emphasizes the need for the International Coalition forces to launch further investigations and compensate the victims with the end of ISIS in Syria.
The 14-page report states that violations by International Coalition forces have become a widespread and frequent pattern in many cities and towns in Syria, which, according to the report, undermines the credibility of these forces, despite their declaration of a noble goal in helping to rid the Syrian people and the peoples of the world of terrorist organizations and the danger they pose. The delay by these forces, more than a year since defeating ISIS in several areas, in starting the reconstruction process, compensating victims, and establishing real local elections that lead to genuine stability in the north-east of Syria, has significantly adversely affected the coalition’s stated goals and objectives.
The report points out that none of the states participating in the International Coalition in Syria, except for the United States of America, have published any reports and investigations into incidents of violations in which civilians were killed, calling on all the member states to issue periodic reports in the event that their forces perpetrate incidents that cause human or material loss, and to acknowledge their responsibilities in terms of human rights and legal liabilities, as well as to revise their methodology so as to avoid subsequent violations.
The report outlines the previous SNHR reports documenting the most notable attacks by International Coalition forces since the start of their intervention in September 2014 and the subsequent killings and forced displacement of civilians for which the coalition is responsible. The report also sheds light on the unlawful attacks carried out by International Coalition forces in Syria from September 23, 2018, to March 2019, in addition to analyzing the data concerning violations perpetrated by International Coalition forces from September 23, 2014, to March 2019.
The report notes that rather than reducing and mitigating the violations inflicted on civilians in their attacks over time, the International Coalition forces have actually increased the number of these violations since 2014. The report also includes an analysis of the attacks by International Coalition forces that we were able to document in our database, based on two variables: the toll of victims and the targeting of vital and civilian facilities. This systematic analysis concluded that the attacks by International Coalition forces began to assume a more chaotic and random character during the second year of the intervention by International Coalition forces, noting that the frequency of attacks and air strikes carried out by International Coalition forces increased dramatically during the third year (from September 2016 to September 2017), during which International Coalition forces appeared to be negligent in observing the principles of customary humanitarian law. During the fourth year, according to the report, following the end of the battle of Raqqa in October 2017, the frequency of attacks carried out by International Coalition forces decreased, with the extent of violations also being reduced accordingly. After that, the coalition’s military operations were concentrated on Deir Ez-Zour governorate and the southern suburbs of Hasaka, with the period between September 2018 and March 2019 seeing a significant retreat by ISIS’ elements in which only an area of a few square kilometers remains under their control.
The report documents the deaths of 3,035 civilians, including 924 children and 656 women (adult female) at the hands of international coalition forces since the start of their military intervention in Syria until March 2019. In addition, the report outlines a distribution of the death toll by year, as well as the distribution across governorates, with Raqqa seeing the highest number of deaths in this category, followed by Aleppo and Deir Ez-Zour governorates.
The report also documents 172 massacres perpetrated by International Coalition forces, and at least 172 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including 25 attacks on schools, 16 attacks on medical facilities, and four attacks on markets since the start of their military intervention in Syria until March 2019.
The report reveals that at least 560,000 inhabitants have been forcibly displaced by International Coalition forces’ attacks, with most of the displaced forced to stay in camps established by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, where they are detained, their identity papers confiscated and they are prevented from leaving.
The report also includes a comparison between the record of the most notable human rights violations committed by International Coalition Forces during the terms of US Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The attacks carried out by International Coalition forces during the term of President Obama killed at least 976 civilians, including 194 children, and 294 women (adult female), which is nearly 32 percent of the total death toll of victims killed by International Coalition forces to date, as well as perpetrating 32 massacres and 61 attacks on civilian objects. During the term of President Trump, meanwhile, these killings have escalated in an alarming manner. The death toll of victims killed during this period to date has reached at least 2,059 civilians, including 730 children and 362 women, which is nearly 68 percent of the total death toll of victims killed by International Coalition forces. In addition, the Coalition attacks began to take on a more systematic and chaotic character under President Trump’s administration, with SNHR documenting at least 140 massacres and at least 120 attacks on civilian objects, as well as documenting the use of incendiary munitions for the first time, with our team documenting at least five attacks carried out by International Coalition forces using incendiary munitions.
The report further notes that the International Coalition forces have acknowledged only 119 attacks which resulted in civilian deaths, including 31 attacks that resulted in massacres (categorized as any attack in which five or more victims were killed in the same place at the same time), a massive discrepancy of 141 massacres compared to the number documented by SNHR.
The report stresses that the incidents of indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment carried out by International Coalition forces constitute explicit violations of international humanitarian law and serious violations of the rules of customary humanitarian law amounting to war crimes, including the targeting of civilians or civilian objects. In addition, these incidents of bombardment have resulted in collateral damages that involved civilian deaths, injuries, or significant damages to civilian objects. There are strong indicators that compel us to believe that the damage was massively excessive compared to any anticipated military advantage.
The report calls on the International Coalition command to support the team working on investigating and following up on these incidents with more manpower, to increase and dedicate more efforts and capabilities in this regard, to create a data map showing the areas worst affected by aerial attacks, and to make real progress towards starting to address the economic and moral ramifications resulting from those attacks.
The report stresses that the welcome military victory over ISIS should be built upon with further help for the Syrian people, calling on the International Coalition command to rid the remaining areas of the terrorist group’s effects, to seriously work on establishing a democratic community leadership which involves the residents of those areas, to work seriously on providing means of a decent life for the forcibly displaced in displacement camps, and to hold everyone who was convicted, through investigations, of being implicated in attacks that resulted in massacres against civilians, and discharge them.
Also, the report calls on the International Coalition command to assist the Syrian community in eliminating terrorist groups akin to ISIS, such as the terrorist groups supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran which have already started establishing bases in Aleppo and Damascus suburbs.
Lastly, the report calls on the OHCHR to address the issue of the forcibly-displaced in the SDF-held areas and to issue a report on the violations they are subjected to while also touching upon the consequences of the bombardment by International Coalition forces on those areas.