862 Medical Facilities Targeted, 88% of These by the Syrian Regime and Its Russian and Iranian Allies Since March 2011, Exacerbating Citizens’ Suffering in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic
(Link below to download full report)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) issued a report today summarizing the most notable violations against medical personnel, noting that 857 medical personnel have been killed and 3,353 others arrested and disappeared since March 2011, nearly 85% of these by the Syrian regime, with 862 medical facilities being targeted, 88% of these by the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies, exacerbating citizens’ suffering in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 44-page report notes that the Syrian regime’s targeting of the medical sector has been deliberate and systematic since the first days of the uprising for freedom, with the fate of dozens of medical personnel arrested routinely since the first months of the popular uprising being still unknown to date. The report adds that the Syrian regime has used state and private medical centers to serve its military or security forces; whilst there was a clear strategy of Alawite sectarian domination within the Syrian regime’s forces, this resulted in double discrimination, firstly in favor of regime forces and secondly on the basis of sect. The Syrian regime also threatened private medical centers in retaliation for providing any form of treatment to injured or wounded protestors.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are responsible for by far the largest proportion of all these violations, with the Syrian regime bearing primary responsibility as the totalitarian entity that controls the Syrian state. Even according to the regime’s own constitution updated in 2012, one of its responsibilities is that: “The state shall protect the health of citizens and provide them with the means of prevention, treatment and medication.”
The report draws readers’ attention to the fact that the ruling regime has failed to conduct even a single investigation into the killing of any Syrian medical personnel or into the disappearance of thousands of these vital workers, although Syrian society and the state are in dire need of their skills, more especially in light of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Showing its usual chilling indifference, the regime has failed to launch any investigation, even a formal, non-independent one which would pose no risk to it. Instead, it has ignored the issue, failing to show even a superficial pretense of caring about accountability, demonstrating that the subject is of no concern to the leadership, which, as the report notes, provides additional evidence of the Syrian regime’s dangerous indifference to Syrian citizens’ lives and wellbeing.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“Targeting the medical sector and its workers is a fundamental component in terrorizing society and pushing citizens towards displacement. We have noted that medical facilities have always been at the forefront of the targets chosen for bombardment by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally, and the Syrian regime has not released any significant number of the medical personnel whom it has detained or forcibly disappeared since March 2011 despite the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, underlining that it does not care about the lives, care and wellbeing of Syrian citizens.”
The report outlines the most notable violations against the medical sector, according to the SNHR’s database, documenting the deaths of 857 medical personnel, including 87 who died due to torture, at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and September 2020, of these Syrian Regime forces killed 652 civilians, including 84 who died due to torture, three who were included in the Caesar photos, and nine who were registered as dead by the Syrian regime at the Civil Registry. Meanwhile, ISIS killed 36, while the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army killed 29, including two who died due to torture. As the report further documents, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed an additional six medical personnel, one of whom died due to torture, and US-led coalition forces killed 13 medical personnel, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed two, with 50 more medical personnel being killed by other parties.
The report also outlines the distribution of the death toll of medical personnel by year, with 2012 being the year in which the highest death toll was recorded with 158 victims, followed by 2014 with 147 victims.
The report reveals that that at least 3,353 medical personnel are still detained or forcibly disappeared at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, with 3,327 of these detained or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime, four by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, four by the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army, and 13 others by Syrian Democratic Forces. As the report documents, five of the medical personnel who were arrested by ISIS are still classified as forcibly disappeared.
As the report further notes, the largest percentage of arrests targeting medical personnel took place in 2012 and 2013.
The report documents at least 862 attacks on medical facilities at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and September 2020, of which 543 were at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, 208 were at the hands of Russian forces, and 19 were by ISIS, while US-led coalition forces committed 16 attacks. As the report further reveals, 15 such attacks were committed by the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army, while four others were recorded at the hands of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, two at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, and one at the hands of the Turkistan Islamic Party. As the report also documents, 54 attacks occurred at the hands of other parties.
As the report also reveals, the highest number of attacks on medical facilities were in 2016 then 2015.
The report adds that the Russian forces targeted several medical facilities, despite these facilities’ inclusion in the humanitarian de-confliction mechanism, before Russia quitted the mechanism in June 2020, with the report also noting that 11 medical centers included in this mechanism were bombed 20 times by Syrian-Russian alliance forces. As the report notes, this alliance has deliberately bombed dozens of private medical facilities included in the hospital directory issued by the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health, which are licensed by the Ministry of Health, with the ministry being fully aware of the coordinates of their locations, demonstrating that the Syrian regime clearly knows exactly which kind of facility it is bombing.
In this context, the report notes that the terrible disintegration afflicting the medical sector in Syria as a result of the widespread violations perpetrated against it has been even more starkly evident since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report emphasizes that there is a real and grave danger to the Syrian people, in particular those in areas under the Syrian regime’s control, because of the regime’s catastrophic indifference and failure to take serious steps to limit the spread of the virus. This is because the Syrian regime harnesses most of the state’s capabilities to fund things like paying the salaries of the security services, targeting areas outside its control, launching more arrest campaigns, and continuing to operate its industrial-scale torture apparatus.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to take further action after resolutions 2139 and 2254 were adopted, since it has failed to date to impose any obligation to stop indiscriminate shelling which must be adhered to by all parties to the conflict, as well as to compel all the parties to abide by the rules of international humanitarian law.
The report also calls on the UN Security Council to put pressure on the Syrian regime to immediately release 3,327 medical personnel, to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court and to ensure that all those involved in perpetrating crimes are held accountable, including the Russian regime, after having been repeatedly proven to be involved in committing war crimes.
The report further recommends that the UN Security Council should impose sanctions on the Syrian, Iranian and Russian regimes which are directly involved in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people, and calls on it to issue a resolution allowing military intervention in order to protect civilians in Syria, especially medical facilities, from barbaric bombing, as Syrian society is in dire need of them in light of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report also provides a set of recommendations to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI), to the OHCHR, and to the Syrian and Russian regimes.