Syria Is an Unsafe Country for the Return of Refugees, As Confirmed by the Reports of the UN Commission of Inquiry and Amnesty International
Press release (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 September 2021 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, as confirmed by the reports of the UN Commission of Inquiry and Amnesty International.
The 25-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in September 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 86 civilians, including 23 children and nine women (adult female), in September 2021, with the highest percentage of killings being carried out at the hands of other parties. Among the victims were eight individuals who died due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report documents at least 193 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention in September 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including 10 children and five women, with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian regime forces in the governorates of Daraa then Aleppo.
The report documents at least 12 attacks on vital civilian facilities in September 2021, nine of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces, one by Russian forces, one by Syrian Democratic Forces, and one by all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army.
As the report reveals, September saw the continuation of military operations by Syrian-Russian alliance forces in Idlib region in northwest Syria for the fourth consecutive month, with these operations concentrated in the Jabal al Zaweya area and its surroundings. The report records an artillery shelling by Syrian regime forces on the center of Idlib city on September 7, for the first time during this campaign, which resulted in casualties. Russian air attacks on Jabal al Zaweya area also continued for the second consecutive month.
The report adds that the last week of September saw a Russian military escalation on the suburbs of Afrin city in Aleppo governorate, with this escalation by Syrian-Russian alliance forces was countered by shelling by armed opposition factions and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, in addition to Turkish forces in the southern suburbs of Idlib, through ground attacks, with this shelling concentrated on the military positions housing Syrian regime forces on the fronts of the southern suburbs of Idlib, the western suburbs of Hama and the northern suburbs of Aleppo.
As the report reveals, Adnan al Msalma, the spokesperson for the Civilian Negotiating Committee in Daraa city, announced on September 1 that an agreement had been reached with Russia and the regime’s security committee that would put an end to the military escalation in Daraa city. This agreement quickly collapsed two days later; on September 5, a new agreement was reached between the Negotiating Committee of Daraa city with the Syrian regime, under Russian auspices, to end the escalation in the city, which entered into force the next day; between September 12 and 26, five agreements were reached for the towns of al Yadouda, al Mzayreeb, Tal Shehab and the villages of Hawd Yarmouk area and Tafas city, with all of these agreements being similar to the agreement on Daraa city.
The report monitors several bombings with explosive devices and motorcycle bombs in the areas of al Bab and Jarablos and in the vicinity of Afrin city in the suburbs of Aleppo, which left dozens of civilian casualties and injuries, and caused damage to civilian facilities. Ras al Ein city in the northwestern suburbs of Hasaka also witnessed bombings. September also saw continuing civilian deaths due to landmine explosions in different governorates and regions of Syria; SNHR documented many landmine explosions, which resulted in the deaths of 10 civilians, including eight children, bringing the civilian death toll caused by landmines since the beginning of 2021 to 142, including 58 children and 22 women.
As the report reveals, September witnessed an unprecedented deterioration in the living conditions of citizens in areas controlled by Syrian regime forces, in light of the increase in the prices of basic materials and the decrease in the exchange rate of the Syrian pound against foreign currencies. In terms of electricity, the number of hours of rationing in some areas reached twenty hours a day, which was reflected in the impossibility of obtaining water (due to the lack of power to pumping stations). As for northwest Syria, the prices of basic food items, vegetables and fuel are also witnessing a significant increase, affected by fluctuations in the exchange rate of the Turkish lira and the monopolies imposed by traders, constituting a heavy burden on citizens already struggling on low incomes, in an area with widespread unemployment, a total lack of job opportunities and low wages. The areas controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces are also witnessing an increase in the prices of basic foodstuffs, which is further intensifying the deterioration of the living conditions there; on September 24, several demonstrations took place in many cities and towns in the northern suburbs of Hasaka, protesting against the increase in the prices of fuel and bread, and the imposition of fines on citizens.
The report adds that the Syrian regime’s security committees have announced new public auctions in the areas of Idlib suburbs and Qal’at al Madiq area, as well as in the eastern region, specifically in Deir Ez-Zour governorate.
In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report records in September a significant increase in documented infections and deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic across Syria, now reaching the highest rate since the outbreak of the pandemic. As the report reveals, the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health officially announced 6,290 cases of COVID-19 infection and 234 deaths in September. The report adds that more infections and deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in August in northwestern Syria, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing the documentation of 34,682 infections and 438 deaths related to COVID-19 for the month, the highest monthly record since the emergence of the pandemic. As for northeastern Syria, a total of 7,356 cases of infection and 144 deaths were recorded in September, according to the Health Authority in the Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria.
The report notes that Syrian Democratic Forces allowed the eighteenth group of IDPs to date, consisting of approximately 324 people from Raqqa governorate, to leave al Hawl Camp and return to their villages and towns. The report refers to the continuation of killings in the camp, as in September, SNHR documented the deaths of four civilians, including two women, at the hands of unknown gunmen, believed to be affiliated with ISIS cells. Since the beginning of 2021, SNHR has documented the deaths of 69 civilians, including 10 children and 22 women, in al Hawl Camp at the hands of unidentified gunmen.
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 killing, 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 all Armed Opposition factions 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.