Russian Warplanes Renewed Their Bombardment of Several Areas in Idlib Governorate, Very Far from the Lines of Contact, Causing the Displacement of Hundreds More Syrians
(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 October 2020 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that Russian warplanes have renewed their bombardment of several areas in Idlib governorate, very far from the lines of contact, causing the displacement of hundreds more Syrians.
The 30-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in October 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/ detention 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 126 civilians in October, including 18 children and eight women (adult female). Among the victims were one media worker. We also documented the deaths of 10 individuals who died due to torture, and at least three massacres.
The report further documents at least 154 cases of arbitrary arrests/ detention in October at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including five children and three women, with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian Regime forces in the governorates of Daraa then Damascus Suburbs.
In addition to these incidents, the report also documents at least 14 attacks on vital civilian facilities in October, five of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, with one each at the hands of Russian forces, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, and the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army, and six others at the hands of other parties. Among these attacks we documented two on places of worship, three on markets, and one other on a Civil Defense center.
As the report reveals, the frequency of Syrian Regime forces’ military operations and artillery and missile bombardment increased dramatically in the last week of October, targeting areas far from the lines of contact such as Ariha city, causing civilian casualties. Also in October, Russian warplanes continued to launch raids in northwest Syria.
The report further reveals that October saw several killings perpetrated by drones, which we believe belonged to the US-led coalition; while most of these attacks targeted military vehicles belonging to extremist Islamist groups, however, these incidents also resulted in the deaths of six civilians.
The report records continuing deaths among civilian victims caused by landmine explosions in various governorates and regions of Syria; the report documents the deaths of 12 victims, including three children, as a result of the explosion of landmines in October 2020, bringing the total death toll resulting from landmine-related incidents this year to 86 civilians, including 15 children, with this death toll being the highest in the world from this cause. This indicates that none of the controlling forces have made any significant efforts in the process of clearing landmines trying to determine their locations and fence them off, or warning the local populations about them.
As the report reveals, car bombs and improvised explosive devices continued to be used in October 2020, causing explosions in several areas of the suburbs of Aleppo, Hasaka and Raqqa, with these attacks inflicting civilian casualties and damaging several vital facilities. The report adds that insecurity continues to be the most prominent problematic issue in most areas of Syria, with the report documenting the deaths of numerous civilians as a result of gunfire by parties which the report was unable to conclusively identify, particularly in the governorates of Daraa, Idlib and Deir Ez-Zour.
The report also highlights an increase in the rates of homicides, thefts and suicides in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime, noting that the main reason behind these is the deteriorating living conditions. The report further reveals that Syrian citizens have continued to suffer from the repercussions of the economic collapse in all areas of Syria, particularly in the areas under the control of the Syrian regime; despite this, the regime raised the prices of fuel and bread in October. The Syrian regime attributes the increase in the prices of basic materials to the US sanctions imposed on it and on individuals and institutions loyal to it.
The report elaborates on the wildfires that broke out in many governorates in the center and west of Syria, noting that the fires, which devastated vast areas of forests, agricultural lands and villages, devoured dozens of homes and hundreds of hectares of land that are among Syria’s most precious natural resources, in addition to resulting in casualties. The report stresses that the Syrian regime showed total disregard and indifference to the blazes, with no intervention at all by helicopters to extinguish the massive fires documented. The report also notes that the Syrian regime has failed to announce any plans to carry out any investigations to determine the cause of these fires for which it bears full responsibility, adding that even though it is incumbent upon the Syrian regime to fully compensate the citizens who depend on the burned crops as their sole source of income, the regime continues to devote all its capabilities and resources to serving the security and military services to maintain the ruling family in power.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, the report reveals that October was the worst month to date for the spread of the coronavirus in Syria compared to the previous months, in all regions of the country, with the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health officially announcing 1,528 cases of infection and 88 deaths for the month. In addition, the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announced that 3,666 infections and 44 deaths were recorded in northwest Syria in October, which saw the largest leap in terms of the number of infections and deaths since the emergence of the pandemic in these areas. Northeastern Syria also saw the announcement of a larger number of cases than previously, with 2,986 cases of infection and 61 deaths by COVID-19 in October.
The report notes that the living conditions in all refugee camps in Syria have continued to deteriorate due to the poor humanitarian conditions and the high cost of living, in addition to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic amid extremely poor conditions that prevent the implementation of any precautionary measures. In addition to these severe challenges, the residents of camps in northeast Syria are suffering from inhumane conditions of detention imposed by Syrian Democratic Forces.
The report elaborates on the effects of the 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 absolute negligence. The report also notes that the whole of Syrian society is suffering 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 are the parties primarily responsible for the targeting, bombing and destruction of most medical facilities in Syria, and for the killing and arrest/ ‘disappearance’ 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 the regime controls and manages state institutions.
The report further reveals that evidence gathered by SNHR indicates that attacks have been directed against civilians and civilian objects, with Syrian-Russian alliance forces continuing 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 resolutions 2139 and 2042 concerning the release of detainees, as well as 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 such 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 additionally 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’ doctrine 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’ doctrine, 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 on these bodies to focus on the issue of landmines and cluster munitions within their 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, through 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 Syrian Democratic Forces 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.