At Least 9,967 Civilians, Including 1,683 Children and 1,126 Women, Have Been Killed by Remote Bombings, Including Suicide/ Forced Suicide Bombings, Since March 2011
(Link below to download full report)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights reveals in a report entitled “Remote Bombings, Including Suicide/ Forced Suicide, and the Inability to Identify the Criminal… The Unknown Killer!” issued today that at least 9,967 civilians, including 1,683 children and 1,126 women, have been killed by remote bombings, including suicide/ forced suicide bombings in Syria, since March 2011.
The 18-page report explains that it is difficult to exactly assign responsibility for these killings to one specific party to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in two cases, namely: anti-personnel landmines, and remote bombings, including suicide or forced suicide attacks.
The report deals with remote bombings, including suicide or forced suicide attacks, noting that these include person-borne or vehicle-borne IEDs, with the detonation primarily carried out either via a wireless device or a timer. The report notes that the process of conclusively proving the responsibility of a party for a remote bombing incident is a very complex procedure, requiring extensive effort and great logistical capabilities. The report points out one party claiming an explosion, such as in many bombing incidents that were claimed by the ISIS terrorist group or al Nusra Front, these cannot be relied on as a sole source in conclusively attributing responsibility for the bombing. The same goes for some remote bombing incidents, where there may be clues indicating who committed the bombing, such as bombings that occurred in the Syrian regime’s security branches, despite the security checkpoints around these branches; this has added to suspicions that the Syrian regime has carried out these types of bombings with the aim of mobilizing public opinion in support of the regime, but we cannot conclusively assign responsibility for these bombings to the Syrian regime simply by relying on such clues.
The report further explains that there are distinctive difficulties and challenges facing the SNHR’s staff which prevent us from being able to conclusively identify the perpetrators in the case of remote bombings, with the most prominent of these being, as the report reveals:
• In many cases, a person may be used to carry an IED without knowing it, (There are car maintenance workshops working for all parties to the conflict that specialize in laying booby traps), or under coercion, threat and terror, and an IED may be installed on a vehicle without its owner knowing, which is detonated remotely while he is driving it, or after he stops.
• The person-borne IED may be in the form of a belt, which is a garment encircling the body worn by a suicide bomber or a person forced to do so; this will be filled with explosives, may have a stun gun, and may contain small iron balls or nails, which act as shrapnel, in order to inflict the largest possible damage.
The report outlines the human losses suffered by the Syrian civilian population caused by these remote bombings, including suicide/ forces suicide bombings, between March 2011 and November 2020, particularly highlighting the death toll of victims, including children and women, the medical, media and Civil Defense personnel, and their distribution according to the governorates in which they were killed, as well as highlighting some of the most prominent massacres caused by these bombings.
The report also documents the deaths of at least 9,967 civilians, including 1,683 children and 1,126 women (adult female), who were killed as a result of dozens of remote bombing incidents, including suicide/ forced suicide bombings, since March 2011, including 51 medical personnel, 24 Civil Defense personnel, and 18 media workers.
Of the 9,967 killed in such attacks, the report notes that at least 1,124 of the civilians, including 192 children and 113 women (adult female), were killed by suicide/ forced suicide bombings.
As the report reveals, most of the remote bombing victims were in Aleppo governorate, where the death toll from the bombings comprised approximately 22% of the total death toll, followed by Idlib governorate with approximately 14% of the total, then Deir Ez-Zour with 10%; after this come the remaining governorates, with the report attributing the varying percentages between different areas to many factors, the most prominent of which is the changing nature of control over the areas, the multiplicity of the parties that controlled the same governorate, and the competition between these parties for territory.
The report further explains that the disparity in the balance of power prompts the parties to the internal armed conflict to avoid direct clashes, and to use the method of remote bombings, including suicide bombings, with this method falling within the framework of the confrontation, aiming to spread fear and terror among the people in opposition areas, with spreading terror being prohibited under customary Humanitarian law; remote or suicide bombings are also indiscriminate attacks that clearly violate the principle of distinction between civilian and military objectives, and the principles of precautions and proportionality in attacks.
The report further emphasizes that hundreds of remote bombing incidents that have caused the death of thousands of Syrian civilians, as mentioned in the report, were not directed at a military objective or justified by military necessity, but rather targeted the civilian population, markets, places of worship, vital civilian facilities, and others, with international humanitarian law prohibiting the employment of material and methods of warfare of any nature likely to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering. Failure to respect these provisions constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law and under the statute of the International Criminal Court.
As the report reveals, civilian and military commanders bear criminal responsibility according to the principle of command responsibility, in the event that they knew or should have known about the violations committed by the forces under their control and did not prevent them or punish their subordinates responsible for them, as they must respect and enforce respect for international humanitarian law. The UN Security Council also bears the primary responsibility for the state of chaos and insecurity in Syria due to its terrible failure to protect civilians in Syria for ten years, and its failure to achieve a political transition so far.
The report calls on all parties to the conflict to respect the rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and to stop employing the tactic of remote or suicide bombings targeting civilians and civilian objects, as well as to participate in respectful cooperation with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism.
The report recommends that the UN Security Council and International Community should increase logistical assistance to local organizations and local police working in the field of detecting and dismantling IEDs, to begin to compensate victims and their families, to focus on the psychological treatment process for survivors, and to support humanitarian organizations working in the field of psychological care.
The report stresses that there will be no stability in Syria without achieving a political transition towards democracy and human rights in Syria.