The ‘Presidential Elections’ That Took Place under Threat and Terror Challenge the Syrian Regime’s Legitimacy in Syria and International Forums
(Link below to download full report)
Paris – 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 May 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that the ‘presidential elections’ that took place under threat and terror challenge the Syrian regime’s legitimacy in Syria and international forums.
The 30-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in May 2021, 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 arrest/ detention and enforced disappearances. The report also highlights attacks on civilian objects, which SNHR was able to document during this period.
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 96 civilians in May, including 15 children and 11 women (adult female), the largest percentage of whom were killed at the hands of other parties. The report also documents the deaths of nine individuals who died due to torture, at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report further documents at least 162 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention in May at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including five children, with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian regime forces in the governorate of Tartus, Hama, then Damascus.
In addition to these incidents, the report also documents in May at least seven attacks on vital civilian facilities, one of which was at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while the other six were as a result of bombings, with the report being unable to identify their perpetrators.
As the report reveals, May saw a reduction in the rate of artillery and missile bombardment by Syrian regime forces and their allies on the cities and towns of the southern suburbs of Idlib, the western suburbs of Hama, and the eastern suburbs of Aleppo close to the front lines, while the shelling of the areas near the contact lines by Syrian regime forces caused fires in agricultural land in Jabal al Zaweya area of the southern suburbs of Idlib and wheat fields in the Sahl al Ghab area of the western suburbs of Hama, causing significant material damage for the farmers.
The report notes that clashes continued in May between Syrian National Army forces and Syrian Democratic Forces in the villages of Ein Eisa in the northern suburbs of Raqqa, which are under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces.
The report additionally reveals that bombings continued in all regions in Syria throughout May, especially in northern and eastern Syria. These bombings were concentrated in the areas of al Bab, Jarablos and Afrin in the suburbs of Aleppo, and Ras al Ein city in the northwestern suburbs of Hasaka. The report adds that mines also continue to claim large number of civilian lives across Syria. In May, SNHR documented the deaths of nine civilians, including four children.
The report further reveals that May saw a significant increase in the number of infection cases with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic compared to previous months in all Syrian regions, with the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health in May officially announced 1,762 cases of COVID-19 infection and 178 deaths in May. In northwestern Syria, more infections and deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in May, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing the documentation of 1,558 infections and 17 deaths related to COVID-19 for the month, the highest monthly record announced since the beginning of 2021.
In Northeastern Syria, a total of 2,024 cases of infection and 151 deaths were recorded in May, announced by the Health Authority in the Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria.
Regarding living conditions, the report notes that the areas under the control of Syrian regime forces saw a relative improvement in May compared to April in terms of services provided by the state concerning the availability of fuel, electricity and bread, with the value of the Syrian pound witnessing a slight increase. All these measures resulted from steps taken by the Syrian regime government before the ‘presidential elections’ which aimed to promote the re-election of the regime’s president.
The report adds that the Syrian Democratic Forces’ Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria issued Decision No. 119, which stipulates increasing fuel prices in areas under its control by between 100% and 350%. As a result of this decision, most areas in the governorates of Hasaka and Deir Ez-Zour saw dozens of demonstrations and protests the following day, calling for the decision to be rescinded. Syrian Democratic Forces personnel confronted these peaceful demonstrations with live bullets and arrests, with SNHR documenting the deaths of six civilians, including one child. The report further adds that Manbej city and its suburbs east of Aleppo governorate saw a comprehensive strike of markets and shops om May 31, and popular demonstrations in several areas to protest against the Syrian Democratic Forces’ practices, including their imposition of forced conscription, arrests and rising prices.
As the report reveals, Syrian regime forces arrested in May 62 Syrian citizens in Tartus governorate, in connection with their attempts to emigrate illegally to Cyprus from the Syrian coast. The report adds that 30 families of former fighters in the ranks of the Armed Opposition who refused to make a settlement with the Syrian regime left Om Batenah village in the suburbs of Quneitra on May 20 heading towards the northern suburbs of Idlib Syria, following a forced displacement agreement under Russian sponsorship. The report notes that Syrian Democratic Forces allowed the first group of Iraqi refugees to leave al Hawl Camp and return to Iraq; this group consisted of approximately 381 people.
The report notes that the ‘presidential elections’ proved that the Syrian regime is illegitimate and has won by the power of its security services, adding that the Syrian ‘elections’ were widely rejected by most countries worldwide, which deemed them illegitimate and noted that they did not reflect the will of the Syrian people. The report documented that regime security forces carried out operations in universities, schools, and state institutions depriving staff and students of their liberty in order to force them to vote. Every university student who refused to comply with the orders was threatened with administrative penalties with the possibility of being summoned for interrogation within the security branches, forcing the vast majority of students to vote for Bashar al Assad. The report also documented at least 34 incidents of arrest/ detention that targeted civilians over their non-participation in the sham election or failure to vote for Bashar al Assad.
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 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 on the COI 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 emphasizes that the Syrian regime must stop its indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, and stop using prohibited munitions and barrel bombs, as well as complying 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 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 calls on them to take care to distinguish between civilians and military targets and to cease any indiscriminate attacks.
Lastly, the report stresses the need for humanitarian organizations to develop urgent operational plans to secure decent shelter for internally displaced persons, and to provide protected facilities and vehicles, such as medical facilities, schools, and ambulances, with distinctive signs that can be distinguished from long distances, as well as making several additional recommendations.