Landmines Kill 25 Civilians, including Four Children, and the Highest Number of Coronavirus Infections to Date
(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 August 2020 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that landmines resulted in the deaths of 25 civilians, including four children, with the number of coronavirus infections increasing, being the highest to date since the announcement of coronavirus’ emergence in Syria.
The 25-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in August 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 and attacks on civilian objects.
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 documents the deaths of 122 civilians in August, including 21 children and seven women (adult female). Among the victims were one medical worker. We also documented the deaths of 13 individuals who died due to torture, and at least one massacre.
The report further documents at least 146 cases of arbitrary arrests in August at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including four children, 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 seven attacks on vital civilian facilities in August, one of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and six at the hands of other parties. Among these attacks we documented one on a school, another on a medical facility and one other on a place of worship.
As the report reveals, Syrian regime forces continued with military operations and artillery and missile bombardment throughout the month of August, concentrating on the areas of Jabal al Zaweya in the southern suburbs of Idlib, with looting of civilian property continuing in the areas these forces had took control of in the Idlib region. August also saw raids by Russian warplanes.
In August, the report records a remarkable increase in the proportion of victims among Syrian citizens killed by landmines – 25 civilians, including four children – about 20% of the total death toll for the month, with the incidents taking place in different governorates in Syria, particularly in the governorates of Aleppo and Idlib, with the report pointing out that this indicates that none of the controlling forces have made any significant efforts in the process of removing landmines, or trying to determine their locations and fence them off, or to warn the local population about them.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, the report adds that the month of August was the worst ever to date in all regions of Syria, where 2,008 cases of infection were officially announced by the Ministry of Health during this month, along with 69 deaths, with the toll recorded in August 2020 being four times higher than the number of cases recorded in previous month, July, while the death toll doubled twice. In addition, the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announced 49 cases of infection and one death in northwestern Syria in August. Northeastern Syria saw a leap in the number of infections and deaths as a result of COVID-19, with 531 cases of infection, of whom 35 died, as announced by the Health Authority in the Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria, including 35 deaths, with the report portending the spread of the pandemic in those areas.
The report states that the water crisis in Hasaka city and its suburbs reemerged when the Syrian National Army stopped pumping water from Allouk Water Station in response to Syrian Democratic Forces’ reduction of the electricity supply to al Mabrouka Electricity Station, which supplies electricity to areas controlled by the Syrian National Army forces. The report stresses the need that basic life requirements must not be included in any form of political or military rivalry, as humanitarian aid must be allowed to pass and flow freely to civilians, whatever the combat and political conditions.
Speaking on the Constitutional Committee, the report notes that the meetings of the Constitutional Committee, which had been suspended for three days after four members of the Constitutional Committee tested positive for COVID-19, resumed in Geneva on August 27, with the report noting that this round of meetings is the first after a nine-month hiatus.
The report elaborates on COVID-19 pandemic, noting 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/ disappearing 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 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.
The report adds that the instances of indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment carried out by the 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 and landmines 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 recommends that the international community should work to launch projects to create maps revealing the locations of landmines and cluster munitions in all Syrian governorates. This would facilitate the process of removing them and educating the population about their locations.
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, with the report calling them on to focus on the issue of landmines and cluster munitions within the next report.
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 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 84,000 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 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.
The report calls on the Syrian regime and all the parties to the conflict and controlling forces to provide detailed maps of the locations where they planted landmines, especially in civilian areas or near residential communities.
Lastly, the report stresses the need for humanitarian organizations to develop urgent operational plans to secure decent shelter for internally displaced persons, and to exert efforts in landmine clearance operations in parallel with relief operations whenever the opportunity arises.