The Need for Reparations for 3,039 Victims Killed, Reconstruction of Vital Facilities, and Establishment of a Democratically Elected Civilian Body to Begin
BY: Spokesman for the US-led coalition against ISIS, Wayne Marotto
(Link below to download full report)
In its latest report released today to mark the sixth anniversary of the US-led coalition intervention against ISIS, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) calls for the start of reparations for 3,039 victims killed, reconstruction of vital facilities, and establishment of a democratically elected civilian body.
The 13-page report notes that although the painful strikes launched by the US-led coalition doubtlessly contributed to stopping the expansion of ISIS, and then to ensuring its decline, until it was confined to very small outposts, this success was accompanied by material, human and political losses, with the report calling for crowning this military victory with a political victory by starting to establish a local body representing all the groups within Syrian society and introducing reparations for victims, as well as launching reconstruction in areas where ISIS had been vanquished.
The report documents the deaths of 3,039 civilians, including 924 children and 656 women (adult female), at the hands of US-led coalition forces since the start of the US-led coalition’s military intervention on September 23, 2014, until September 23, 2020. The report includes the distribution of the death toll according to the years of intervention, with the third and fourth years witnessing the highest death toll. The report also reveals that the US-led coalition’s tactics in dealing with ISIS have changed over the years, noting that since the end of 2016, US-led coalition attacks have become more indiscriminate, with this period accounting for nearly 79% of the death toll among the victims whose deaths the report documented at the hands of the US-led coalition forces in the past six years.
The report documents that at least 172 massacres were committed by US-led coalition forces, along with at least 181 attacks on vital civilian facilities, 25 of which were on schools, 16 on medical facilities, and four on markets, between the start of the coalition’s military intervention in Syria and September 23, 2020.
The report also notes that at least five incendiary munition attacks have been carried out by US-led coalition forces since the start of their military intervention in Syria up until September 23, 2020.
The report reveals that the military operations in the governorates of Raqqa, Deir Ez-Zour and Hasaka caused the displacement of at least 550,000 people, noting that US-led coalition forces and Syrian Democratic Forces share responsibility for their displacement with the ISIS terrorist organization, which used many as human shields.
The report notes that since the beginning of 2020, US-led coalition forces have participated in raids and arrests carried out by Syrian Democratic Forces, claiming to pursue ISIS cells, through airdrops on the areas where individuals wanted by Syrian Democratic Forces are located, mainly in the governorates of Deir Ez-Zour and Raqqa, as well as in the southern suburbs of Hasaka. As the report reveals, cases of civilians with no links to ISIS being detained have been recorded, based on security reports from Syrian Democratic Forces, with a number of those detained being people with special needs and children; at least 122 individuals, including four children, were arrested by Syrian Democratic Forces personnel, with the participation of the US-led coalition forces, between September 2014 and September 20, 2020, of whom 56 individuals, including two children, have been detained since March 2019; that is, after the announcement of the defeat of ISIS.
The report stresses that a number of requirements have arisen following the military defeat of the ISIS terrorist organization which have not yet been met, noting that any military victory will be hollow and meaningless if it’s not accompanied by reparations for the families of those who were killed, and if the dispossessed, including those unjustly detained in camps, are unable to return home to their villages and towns, with real effort made to help them return and to help launch a process of genuinely democratic local elections, so that the people of these areas do not feel that they are once again languishing under military oppression, having already endured ISIS.
The report outlines eight points on which the US-led coalition must work seriously in order to help to achieve stability as quickly as possible, most notably holding local elections for a civilian governing body representing the population of three Syrian governorates: Raqqa, Deir Ez-Zour, and Hasaka, so that the people of al Jazira region do not feel that they are represented by the Self-Management body that was imposed on them as an unelected de facto authority; as the report notes, many areas in al Jazira region have witnessed angry popular protests, especially in Deir Ez-Zour governorate, given the current lack of any such democratic process despite more than a year-and-a half having passed since the defeat of ISIS.
The report further notes the need for the US-led coalition members to contribute to the reconstruction processes following the establishment of a democratically elected civilian body, to take a firm stand on the operations of Syrian Democratic Forces’ sales of oil and gas to the Syrian regime, especially after the implementation of the Caesar Act, to demand that the SDF disclose the expenditure of financial revenues from the sale of oil and gas, and to work to free the detainees in the northeastern region’s camps, whom the report considers to be forcibly detained, because they have been unable to return to their areas or leave the camps, with some of these camps turning into detention facilities resembling large prison camps.
The report stresses the need for supervision and effective management of the issue of mass graves, indicating that this subject remains one of the unresolved issues, with efforts to locate and exhume the victims buried there still being faltering and insufficient, with the report calling for devoting more resources and more financial and logistical support to supporting the teams responsible for uncovering and transporting dead bodies, stressing the need for securing and protecting the sites of these graves to avoid destroying the available evidence.
The report also urges the US-led coalition to contribute to the fight against landmines and IEDs, particularly since these are primary issues in discouraging displaced local people from returning to their homes, given the random and widespread distribution of landmines and IEDs, which are primed to explode at the slightest touch, along the area’s roads, among the rubble of houses, and even amongst home furniture. As the report reveals, at least 435 civilians have been killed by landmines in the governorates of Raqqa, Deir Ez-Zour and Hasaka between October 2017 (that is, after the withdrawal of ISIS from Raqqa governorate) and September 2020.
The report adds that the US-led coalition should contribute to disclosing the fate of approximately 8,648 citizens disappeared by ISIS, including 319 children and 225 women, in light of the Syrian Democratic Forces’ lack of any serious cooperation or of any actual investigation, and its indifference shown by its failure to launch even one investigation into the fate of these forcibly disappeared and missing persons; as the report notes, this further confirms that these forces are purely a military control force playing no role in civil and societal work and instead dedicating financial resources solely to their own security and military objectives.
Lastly, the report calls on the US-led coalition to follow up on the complete elimination of ISIS cells active in northeastern Syria, who continue to terrorize the population and to demand that shop owners pay ‘taxes’ and Jizya (tribute), especially in the towns of al Bseira, al Sh-heil, al Zer, al Hawayej, and Theyban, with the report noting that these cells exploit the fragile political and security situation in these crisis-hit areas, working in concert to attempt to once again expand the organization and empower its ranks.