Killings Continue in Tandem with the Tenth Anniversary of the Popular Uprising for Democracy
(Link below to download full report)
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced in its monthly report released today that extrajudicial killing claimed the lives of 138 civilians, including 23 children, 11 women, and 14 victims due to torture, including a child, in Syria in February 2021, with the SNHR further noting that killings have continued in tandem with the anniversary of the popular uprising for democracy.
The 22-page report states that the crime of murder has become widespread and systematic, mainly at the hands of Syrian regime forces and affiliated militias, adding that the entry of several parties into the Syrian conflict has increased the importance and complexity of documenting the victims killed in Syria.
The report notes that since 2011, the SNHR has created complex electronic programs to archive and categorize the victims’ data, enabling the SNHR to catalogue victims according to the gender and location where each was killed, the governorate from which each victim originally came, and the party responsible for the killing, and to make comparisons between these parties, and identify the governorates which lost the largest proportion of residents. The report catalogues the death toll of victims according to the governorate in which they were killed, rather than by the governorate they originally came from.
This report records the death toll of victims documented killed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in February 2021, particularly focusing on the victims amongst children and women, and those who died due to torture.
As the report reveals, the statistics provided for the death toll of victims include those related to extrajudicial killings by the controlling forces in each area which occurred as a violation of both International Human Rights Law or International Humanitarian Law, and do not include deaths arising from natural causes or those caused by disputes between individual members of society.
The report includes the distribution of the death toll of victims according to the perpetrator parties, noting that there is great difficulty in determining the party that planted landmines, due to the multiplicity of forces controlling the areas in which these explosions occurred, and therefore the report does not attribute the vast majority of killings due to landmines to a specific party. None of the perpetrator forces in the Syrian conflict have revealed maps of the places where they planted landmines.
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.
As the report reveals, February saw continuing civilian deaths as a result of landmine explosions in different governorates and regions of Syria, with SNHR documenting the deaths of 16 victims, including six children, bringing the civilian death toll caused by landmines since the beginning of 2021 to 34, including 22 children; SNHR has recorded many landmine explosions that resulted in civilian casualties in several areas under the various different forces currently in control. This indicates that none of the controlling forces have made any significant efforts towards clearing landmines, or trying to determine their locations and fence them off, or to warn the local population about them
On another issue, the report notes that on February 17, the Civil Defense announced the discovery of a mass grave during rubble removal operations in the Tareeq al Sadd area on the outskirts of al Bab city in the eastern suburbs of Aleppo, with the Civil Defense teams managing to retrieve 19 unidentified bodies, which are likely date back to the period of ISIS’s control over the city and battles in the area between the ISIS organization and the Syrian National Army factions.
The report refers to the continuing poor conditions of the camps and the wretched living conditions for refugees there, as well as recording a number of deaths in the camps as a result of the lack of food and medicine and of the minimum necessities of life.
The report adds that remote bombings continued in February in Syria, noting the documentation of three massacres in this period, all of them caused by explosives of so-far unknown sources, which resulted in the deaths of 18 civilians, including seven children, and two women (adult female).
As the report explains, the SNHR’s Victim Documentation team has documented the deaths of 138 civilians, including 23 children and 11 women (adult female) in February. This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 19 of the civilian victims, including two children and one woman, killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, six civilians, including one child, killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, one civilian killed at the hand of ISIS, and one child killed at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham. In addition, the report documents the death of one civilian at the hands of the Armed Opposition/ Syrian National Army, and 110 civilians, including 19 children and 10 women, at the hands of other parties.
Also in February 2021, as the report reveals, the SNHR’s working team documented the deaths of 14 victims due to torture, including one child, with 10 of these victims killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and the child killed at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, while another civilian was killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and two others at the hands of other parties.
The report also documents three massacres in February, all as a result of bombings whose perpetrators the report has not been able to identify, with the term ‘massacre’ used to denote an attack that caused the death of at least five peaceful individuals in the same incident.
The report states that the Syrian regime bears the primary responsibility for the deaths of Syrian citizens due to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the Syrian regime and its Russian ally have repeatedly been documented as having targeted, bombed and destroyed most medical facilities in Syria, and killed hundreds of medical personnel, according to the SNHR’s database, with dozens of these lifesaving medics being still classified as forcibly disappeared at the regime’s hands, noting that nearly 3,329 medical personnel are still detained or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime.
The report notes that it does not include all deaths, including those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the report mainly documents extrajudicial killings, further noting that the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health has announced the deaths of 1,023 cases in Syria due to the COVID-19, describing this statistic as inaccurate, given the absence of any transparency in the various government ministries, and in view of the supervision of the security services on what is issued by these ministries, which is the case with totalitarian regimes.
As the report notes, the evidence collected by SNHR indicates that the attacks documented were directed against civilians and civilian objects. Syrian-Russian alliance forces have committed various crimes ranging from extrajudicial killings to detention, torture and enforced disappearance. Their attacks and indiscriminate bombardment have resulted in the destruction of facilities and buildings. The report notes that 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 all UN Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 2139, resolution 2042, and resolution 2254, all without any accountability.
As the report also notes, ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham have violated international humanitarian law by killing civilians, while Syrian Democratic Forces carried out attacks that are considered violations of international humanitarian law, with the crimes of indiscriminate killing amounting to war crimes.
The report adds that the use of explosive arms to target densely populated areas reflects a criminal and wholly deliberate mentality intended to inflict the greatest possible number of deaths, which is a clear contravention of international human rights law and a flagrant violation of the four Geneva Convention (articles 27, 31, 32).
The report calls on the 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 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’ 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 implement the norm of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’, 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 clearing them and educating the population about their locations.
The report calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) 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 them on to focus on the issue of landmines and cluster munitions within the next report.
The report also stresses that the Syrian regime must stop the indiscriminate shelling and targeting residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, as well as ending the acts of torture that have caused the deaths of thousands of Syrian citizens in detention centers, and complying with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
The report stresses that the states supporting the SDF should cease all forms of support until the SDF commits itself to complying with the rules of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The report calls on the Armed Opposition and Syrian National Army to ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, as well as calling on them to take care to distinguish between civilians and military targets and to cease any indiscriminate attacks.
Lastly, the report calls on all the parties to the conflict to provide detailed maps of the locations where they planted landmines, especially civilian sites or near residential communities, as well as making several additional recommendations.