Around 61 Civilians Killed, 33 of Them by Russian Forces, Including 20 Children, While 13 Vital Facilities Targeted, Between June and September 2021
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights notes in its report released today that Russian and Syrian regime forces have committed violations that constitute war crimes during ongoing unlawful attacks on and around Jabal al Zaweya area, adding that around 61 civilians have been killed to date, 33 of them by Russian forces, including 20 children, with 13 vital facilities also targeted, between June and September 2021.
The report notes that SNHR documented a sudden military escalation by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces since the beginning of June 2021, targeting Jabal al Zaweya area and its surroundings in northwest Syria which remain outside the Syrian regime’s control, mostly by ground attacks on civilian areas, causing civilian casualties and significant material damage to vital facilities. The report explains that this came after a period of relative calm that lasted for months in the wake of the Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreement concluded in March 2020, which did not prevent the Syrian regime and its Iranian ally from carrying out ground bombardment. The report further reveals that 83 civilians, including 44 children and 17 women (adult female), were killed as a result of military attacks by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces on Jabal al Zaweya and its vicinity between March 6, 2020, and September 1, 2021.
The 25-page report documents details of the unlawful military attacks by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces between June 5, 2021, and September 1, 2021, and the casualties these attacks caused, as well as of the targeting of vital facilities and residential neighborhoods and the accompanying destruction. The report relies on SNHR’s daily and continuous monitoring process, as well as on direct testimonies from survivors, relatives of victims, aid workers and media activists, with this report providing eight of these testimonies.
The report underlines the importance of the Jabal al Zaweya area, providing details on the reality of control by the parties to the conflict over the area, adding that the Syrian-Russian alliance forces have violated the ceasefire and launched military attacks on and around the Jabal al Zaweya area, detailing the most prominent features that distinguished the latest campaign on Jabal al Zaweya and its vicinity since the beginning of June 2021 from the previous campaigns. The report also documents the intense bombardment following the flight of reconnaissance planes, which concentrates on targeting gatherings of people, the use of higher-quality weapons in terms of their accuracy in hitting the target and in the great destruction caused to the target site, with the weapons being laser circuit-guided, and the use of intense missile bombardment. As the report reveals, other features distinguishing the latest campaign from preceding ones are the deployment of munitions whose use SNHR hadn’t previously documented in the Syrian conflict, with an unprecedented intensity, and the difficulty in definitively identifying the responsibility for some of the attacks between Russia or the Syrian regime, due to the presence of launching platforms belonging to the Syrian regime, and others belonging to Russia, with these platforms moving from one place to another, as well as a noticeable increase in use of the double-tap strike policy in dozens of incidents.
The report refers to international and human rights condemnations of the bombardment of Jabal al Zaweya area and its vicinity, noting that these condemnations received no response and failed to generate any investigations by Russia or the Syrian regime.
The report documents the deaths of 61 civilians, including 33 children and 12 women, one medical worker, one media worker, and one Civil Defense worker in the attacks launched by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces on Jabal al Zaweya and its vicinity, between June 5, 2021, and September 1, 2021; 28 of the victims, including 13 children, seven women, and one medical worker, were killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while Russian forces killed 33 civilians, including 20 children, five women, one media worker, and one Civil Defense worker.
The report also documents five massacres during the same period, two of which were at the hands of Syrian regime forces and three at the hands of Russian forces.
During the same period, the report documents at least 13 attacks on vital civilian facilities at the hands of Syrian-Russian alliance forces in Jabal al Zaweya area and its vicinity, 12 of which were at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and one at the hands of Russian forces.
The report stresses that the attacks by the Russian/ Syrian military alliance included in this report have resulted in deaths of Syrian citizens, and in the injury and disability of many other people, as well as exacerbating the already extreme food and health-related suffering of the population, all of which add to the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in northwest Syria at various levels.
The report adds that the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance forces have unquestionably violated UN Security Council Resolutions No. 2139 and 2254 to stop indiscriminate attacks, and also violated International Humanitarian Law rules of distinction between civilians and combatants.
The report notes that neither the Russian or Syrian authorities have conducted any serious investigations into these attacks, or even into any other previous ones, with the Russian and Syrian leaderships, both military and political, bearing responsibility for these attacks based on the principle of command responsibility under international humanitarian law.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to refer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and hold all those responsible accountable, while UNSC states’ veto power should be withheld when crimes against humanity and war crimes are committed. The report also calls on the UN Security Council to impose UN military and economic sanctions on the Syrian regime, especially the leaders involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The report recommends that the international community should support the political transition process and put pressure to compel the parties to implement the political transition within a time period of no more than six months, and to renew pressure on the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The report adds that the Russian and Iranian regimes should face heavy fines and financial penalties for the destruction of vital buildings and facilities in Syria. These sums should be reflected in the reparations for the victims and the restoration of the facilities and buildings whose destruction the two regimes contributed to.
The report also recommends that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) should work on identifying the responsibility of individuals within the Syrian regime who are involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes, publish their names to expose them to international public opinion and end all dealings with them at every political and economic level, in addition to making several more recommendations.