Syria Is an Unsafe Country for the Return of Refugees and IDPs Due to the Survival of the Same Security Services Since 2011
(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 November 2020 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that Syria is an unsafe country for the return of refugees and IDPs due to the survival of the same security services since 2011.
The 26-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in November 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 172 civilians in November, including 16 children and 11 women (adult female). The report also documents the deaths of 30 individuals who died due to torture, and at least two massacres.
The report further documents at least 167 cases of arbitrary arrests/ detention in November at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including two children and three women, with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian Regime forces in the governorates of Damascus, Damascus Suburbs, then Daraa.
In addition to these incidents, the report also documents at least 13 attacks on vital civilian facilities in Daraa, seven of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, one at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and five others at the hands of other parties. Among these attacks we documented four on schools and one other on a medical facility.
As the report reveals, Syrian Regime forces and militias continued carrying out artillery and missile bombardment on the cities and towns of the southern suburbs of Idlib and the western suburbs of Hama, with bombardment expanding in November, reaching the cities of Idlib and Ariha. The pace of Russian airstrikes decreased compared to October, while the Armed Opposition factions and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham continued their artillery shelling on areas under the control of Syrian Regime forces in the suburbs of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo, in response to the bombardment targeting the areas under opposition control. The report adds that the Ein Eisa district in the northern suburbs of Raqqa was also bombed by Syrian National Army forces, accompanied by clashes with Syrian Democratic Forces in an attempt to advance and control the area.
The report further reveals that explosions (using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), motorcycle and car bombs) continued in most areas outside the control of Syrian Regime forces; landmines continue to claim civilian lives, especially in the southern suburbs of Idlib and the northern and eastern suburbs of Hama. Also in November, the report records continuing assassinations in the northwest and eastern areas of Aleppo governorate, as well as in the east and north of Deir Ez-Zour governorate and in Daraa governorate; these operations targeted civilians, policemen, and former leaders of Armed Opposition factions.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, the report reveals that November was no better than previous months in terms of COVID-19, as it saw an unprecedented increase in the number of cases recorded throughout Syria in light of the almost complete absence of any precautionary measures. In areas under the control of Syrian Regime forces, the Ministry of Health in November officially announced 2,159 cases of infection and 129 deaths. A spike in new infections and deaths due to coronavirus in northwestern Syria meant that the casualty figures recorded in November were three times those documented the previous month, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing that 11,264 infections and 192 deaths had been documented for November. The report adds that the Health Authority in the Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria had announced recording 2,427 cases of infection and 70 deaths in November in northeastern Syria.
The report refers to the deteriorating living conditions, noting that in light of the repercussions of the continuing economic collapse, and with widespread unemployment and scarcity of available job opportunities, all parts of Syria are witnessing exorbitant prices, especially food and fuel costs, in addition to citizens having no option but to join long queues to obtain these basic goods; the already harsh conditions worsen during winter with the increase in need for expensive heating fuel. The report adds that the already extreme suffering of Syrian citizens in the areas under the control of Syrian Regime forces worsened further in November, due to the increased hours of electricity-rationing. These power shortages further worsen the already bleak humanitarian situation, especially in light of the lack of sufficient quantities of diesel and gas available to Syrian citizens for heating and cooking purposes.
As the report reveals, some areas of Sahl al Ghab region in the western suburbs of Hama witnessed a temporary displacement movement of hundreds of civilians during November due to the bombardment inflicted on the area, with the displaced returning to their homes when the frequency of the bombing decreased. The Ein Eisa district in the suburbs of Raqqa also witnessed a displacement movement of hundreds of civilians.
The report warns that the already abysmal humanitarian conditions in the camps in northern Syria have worsened with the arrival of winter, amid fears of torrential rainstorms causing tents to collapse, sweeping them away or creating an impassible muddy morass into which the tents sink, as happened in previous years.
The report notes that Syrian Democratic Forces in November allowed two groups of residents of al Hawl Camp in the suburbs of Hasaka to leave.
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 person 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, to exert efforts in landmine clearance operations in parallel with relief operations whenever the opportunity arises, and to provide protected facilities and vehicles, such as medical facilities, schools, and ambulances, with distinctive signs that can be distinguished from long distances.