85% of These by Syrian Regime Forces and Its Allies
In its latest report released today to mark the UN’s annual Universal Children’s Day, SNHR reveals that at least 29,017 children have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the popular uprising for democracy. The report stresses that the ruling authorities have not only failed to provide protection and stability for Syria’s children, but have been responsible for carrying out the most egregious violations against them, on such a staggering scale that these actions amount to crimes against humanity.
Syria ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, as well as ratifying the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the report notes, adding that while all the parties to the conflict have violated the rights of the child, the Syrian regime has far exceeded all other parties in terms of the amount and level of crimes perpetrated in a characteristic and systematic manner. The report stresses that the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Treaty Body for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has legal and ethical responsibilities to follow up on the situation of children’s rights in Syria and to end violations against children perpetrated by the Syrian regime.
The report states that the latest report issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Treaty Body for the Convention, on what is happening in Syria is extremely weak, failing completely to reflect the extent of crimes against children in Syria.
The 50-page report notes that the school enrollment rate for children has dropped to 0% in some areas; the main reasons for this decline are the forced displacement, the difficulty for parents of finding employment, and the deliberate bombing of schools, mainly by Syrian-Russian alliance forces. In addition to these grave problems, extremist Islamist groups have taken over some of the schools and turned them into training camps, or they have imposed extremist curricula that serve their agenda. Similarly, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces have imposed curricula with racist discrimination in some schools in the areas they controlled.
As the report states, most children born outside areas under the control of Syrian Regime forces have been denied official documents proving their identities; children born in refugee camps also suffered the same problems, in addition to child labor in their areas of displacement or countries of asylum.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“All the UN mechanisms stand powerless in the face of the brutal Syrian regime’s actions. These mechanisms are generally designed to deal with regimes that adopt a lenient application of laws and care for their reputation around the world, but in the case of barbaric regimes like the Syrian one, they do not work and will not work, especially if the Security Council has been thwarted from acting by vetos. Russia and China have stood by the Syrian regime and this has been enough for it to continue to commit whatever violations it wishes against Syrian children.”
The report outlines the record of violations against children by the main parties to the conflict in Syria between March 2011 and November 20, 2019, providing 11 accounts that SNHR collected through speaking directly with eyewitnesses, which are not cited from any open sources. The report is also based on the daily ongoing monitoring and verification of incidents and news and the collection of evidence and data, as well as analysis of videos and photos posted online.
The report notes the cooperation between SNHR and the UNICEF Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, which includes monthly correspondence with the mechanism on grave violations of children’s rights in the context of the conflict and by the parties to the conflict in order to provide accurate and timely documented information on the grave violations, including killing, maiming, child conscription, sexual violence, child abduction and targeting schools and health facilities and their personnel, and denial of aid access.
The report documents the deaths of 22,753 children by Syrian Regime forces between March 2011 and November 20, 2019, including 186 who suffocated to death as a result of chemical attacks. The report also documents that at least 404 children were killed in attacks in which the Syrian regime used cluster munitions or as a result of explosions of old cluster munition remnants, and 305 children died due to food and medicine shortages in many areas that have been under siege since March 2011. The report also documents at least 1,141 incidents of attacks on schools by Syrian Regime forces during the same period.
As the report states, at least 3,618 children are still detained or forcibly disappeared in the Syrian regime detention centers between March 2011 and November 20, 2019. In addition, child conscription by regime forces since the beginning of 2013 has resulted in the deaths of at least 37 children on the battlefield.
The report notes that Russian forces have killed 1,928 children since the start of Russia’s military intervention in Syria, including 67 children who were killed as a result of 236 cluster munitions attacks. The report also notes that at least 201 incidents of attacks on schools were carried out by Russian forces since the start of its military intervention in Syria in September 2015, in addition to displacing tens of thousands of children as a result of its military operations.
The report also outlines the violations by Syrian Democratic Forces in areas under their control, such as extrajudicial killings and forced conscription; the report reveals that 214 children had been killed by these forces since January 2014, and that 722 children are still detained or forcibly disappeared in the SDF detention centers.
Of the 86 cases of child conscription carried out by the SDF since 2014, the report notes that approximately 23 of these were killed on the battlefield.
The report notes that 956 children have been killed by ISIS since its establishment in April 2013 as a result of indiscriminate shelling, clashes, bombings, executions, and mine-planting before withdrawing from areas under its control. ISIS still has at least 326 children who are still detained or forcibly disappeared. As the report states, at least 25 incidents of attacks on schools have been carried out by the group since its establishment.
As the report states, indiscriminate shelling by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham during its attacks mainly on Armed Opposition-held areas as well as clashes in populated areas have resulted in the deaths of at least 64 children since the establishment of Jabhat al Nussra (now known as HTS) in January 2012 until November 20, 2019; at least 29 children are still detained or forcibly disappeared by HTS, while the report documents three incidents of attack on schools carried out by HTS.
The report adds that 924 children were killed as a result of attacks by US-led coalition since the start of their intervention in Syria on September 23, 2014, until November 20, 2019, while the report documents at least 25 incidents of attack on schools by US-led coalition during the same period.
The report also documents the deaths of 984 children by factions of the Armed Opposition, most of whom were killed as a result of indiscriminate shelling carried out by opposition forces on areas under the control of Syrian Regime forces, particularly with mortar shells, while five of them were killed during their participation in the battlefields alongside factions of the Armed Opposition.
As the report states, 348 children are still detained or forcibly disappeared in detention centers controlled by factions of the Armed Opposition, noting that SNHR has documented 35 attacks on schools carried out by faction of the Armed Opposition.
The report further documents the deaths of at least 1,194 children since March 2011, as well as 60 incidents of attack on schools, at the hands of other parties.
The report notes that the government forces and pro-government militias have committed atrocities which constitute crimes against humanity against Syria’s children, through widespread and systematic killings, torture and sexual violence, in flagrant violation of Article VII of the Rome Statute, and committed other acts amounting to war crimes through forced conscription, starvation and collective siege of the population, including women and children. This is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and relevant Security Council resolutions.
The report also notes that at the 2005 Summit, states unanimously agreed that each country has a responsibility to protect its population from crimes against humanity and war crimes. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, the prevention of incitement to commit them by all possible means, and when the state clearly fails to protect its population from egregious crimes, or itself is committing such crimes as in the case of the Syrian regime, it is the responsibility of the international community to intervene to take protective measures in a collective, decisive and timely manner.
The report stresses that most of the Russian forces’ bombardment has been concentrated on populated areas and centers and has resulted in the deaths of dozens of Syrian children, with all these indiscriminate attacks amounting to war crimes. The report notes that Syrian Democratic Forces committed acts amounting to war crimes through indiscriminate shelling that resulted in the death of many children and through forced conscription.
As the report states, extremist Islamist groups have conscripted hundreds of children under the age of 15, and tortured children in their detention centers, with the indiscriminate shelling they carried out resulting in the death of many more children, all of which constitute war crimes. The report also notes that different factions of the Armed Opposition have conscripted dozens of children, with the indiscriminate shelling carried out by some factions resulting in the death of many more children, all of which constitute war crimes.
The report reveals that the attacks carried out by US-led Coalition have incidentally caused civilian casualties, including children, as well as injuring them, or causing significant damage to civilian objects. There are very strong indications that the damage was exceptionally excessive in comparison to the desired military advantage.
The report recommends that the international community should provide protection and assistance to forcibly displaced children, including the displaced and refugees, especially girls, and should take into account their specific needs primarily for protection, fulfill its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, make serious efforts to isolate the Syrian regime and expose its practices, and should stop them as soon as possible.
The report also calls on the international community to support all possible means for ensuring accountability in Syria, primarily the Independent International Mechanism, established by the General Assembly, the International Commission of Inquiry, established by the Human Rights Council, and the active national human rights organizations, and to expose States attempting to rehabilitate or support perpetrators of crimes against humanity against Syrian children.
The report stresses the need to take possible legal, political and financial measures against the Syrian regime and its allies, as well as against all perpetrators of violations in the Syrian conflict to pressure them to commit to respect the rights of children, to fulfill the commitment of pledged financial contributions, in addition to the urgent need to deliver aids to the besieged children, to force the Syrian regime to lift the siege on the al Rukban Camp, rather than simply dropping aid from the air, to assist the bordering countries and provide all possible support to increase the level of education and healthcare in these countries which host the largest number of refugee children.
The report also calls on the international community to establish mechanisms to end the bombing of schools and kindergartens, to protect these facilities and work to create a safe learning environment, which is the least possible level of protection that could be offered for civilians. The report underlines that the issue of Syrian children is a global one, and all countries must do their utmost to alleviate its repercussions by supporting schools and the educational and medical process inside Syria, and caring for refugee children.
The report recommends that humanitarian aid operations should be coordinated according to the areas worst affected, and should avoid bowing to pressure and blackmail by the Syrian regime which is working to harness aid to its advantage, adding that they should also provide adequate resources for the rehabilitation of children, taking into account the special needs of girls who have been directly affected by violations and who have been sexually exploited.
The report stresses the need to ensure that refugees fleeing Syria are able to seek asylum and respect their rights, including the prohibition of refoulement, and that EU states and other countries should alleviate the burden on neighboring countries, receive more Syrian refugees, and donor countries should increase their assistance to the UNHCR and civil societies organizations in countries of asylum.
The report calls on the UNHCR to create a stable and safe environment for Syrian refugee children, to intensify work for their reintegration into society through long-term psychological treatment, and to promote investment in education and health.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime must fulfill its obligations based on its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the two International Covenants and the Geneva Conventions., and that stop deliberately shelling schools, kindergartens, and residential areas inhabited by children and their families, in addition to immediately release detained children, particularly against the background of armed conflict, and abide by international laws on the detention of children, especially girls.
The report also calls on the US-led coalition to investigate incidents that resulted in child victims in particular, to take deterrent steps against persons suspected of involvement in these violations, and to pressure their SDF allies to stop child conscription and abide by the action plan signed by them in coordination with the UN in June 2019.