Including Four Massacres in December
SNHR announced today that at least 223 massacres were perpetrated by the parties to the conflict documented in Syria in 2018, including four massacres in December
The report notes that the first two years of the popular uprising saw the largest proportion of massacres of an ethnic and sectarian nature, with the Syrian regime and its militias being responsible for the majority of these massacres. In mid-2013, Syrian regime forces began relying heavily on warplanes, which were also subsequently used by international coalition forces and Russian forces. The wide use of aerial bombardment doubled the numbers of victims and caused massive destruction to the infrastructure, with one or two new massacres at least being recorded almost every day.
This report draws upon the ongoing monitoring of news and development by SNHR’s team, and on accounts by survivors, eyewitnesses, and local media activists with the report containing two accounts that have been collected by speaking directly with eyewitnesses, which are not cited from any open sources, in addition to analyzing a large number of videos and pictures that were posted online or sent by local activists.
According to the report, December saw a decrease in the number of massacres compared to the previous month, with 70 percent of these massacres being perpetrated at the hands of International Coalition forces as part of the Coalition’s military campaign to eliminate ISIS in Deir Ez-Zour governorate.
The first quarter of 2018 saw an increase in the documented massacres compared to the rest of the year, in the aftermath of the Syrian-Russian military campaign against the three de-escalation zones (specifically areas in the north of Homs governorate, parts of Daraa and Quneitra governorates, and the Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Suburbs governorate) which resulted in agreements by which those areas residents were forcibly displaced.
The Syrian-Russian alliance forces inflicted the highest percentage of massacres of all the parties involved in the conflict, being responsible for 71 percent of the total documented number of massacres. This was followed by the International Coalition forces who were responsible for 13 percent of the massacres perpetrated, with all the massacres committed at the hands of the International Coalition forces being concentrated in the eastern region of Syria following the war on ISIS.
The report documents at least 223 massacres that were perpetrated by the parties to the conflict in Syria in 2018. The report uses the term “massacre” to refer to an incident in which five or more peaceful civilians are killed in the same attack. Based on this definition, Syrian regime forces were responsible for 130 massacres in 2018. Additionally, the Russian forces committed 27 massacres, ISIS committed eight massacres, while the report records that the Kurdish Self-Management forces were responsible for four massacres, and the international coalition forces were responsible for 28 massacres, while other parties committed 26 massacres.
According to the report, the massacres documented in 2018 resulted in the deaths of 2,741 civilians, including 826 children and 565 women (adult female). This means that 51 percent of all the massacre victims were women and children, which is a worryingly high percentage, and an indication that civilian residents were deliberately targeted in most of these massacres.
According to the report, the total victim death toll of massacres committed by Syrian Regime forces was 1,564 civilians, including 412 children and 311 women, while the total victim death toll of massacres committed by Russian forces reached 338 civilians, including 133 children, and 75 women. Meanwhile, 165 civilians, including 18 children and 16 women, were killed in the massacres committed by ISIS and 39 civilians, including two children and 15 women, were killed by the Self-Management forces. The total victim death toll from massacres committed by the International Coalition forces was 331 civilians, including 165 children, and 83 women, while the victim death toll of massacres by other parties amounted to 304 civilians, including 96 children, and 65 women.
The report reviews the victim death toll of massacres documented in December, which saw at least four massacres, three of which were perpetrated by International Coalition forces, while other parties committed one massacre. The four massacres resulted in the deaths of 34 civilians, including 11 children and eight women (adult female). This means that 56 percent of all victims were women and children, which is a very high percentage, and an indication that civilian residents were deliberately targeted in most of these massacres.
According to the report, the victim death toll of the massacres perpetrated by International Coalition forces was 24 civilians, including 11 children and seven women, while 10 civilians, including one woman, were killed in the massacre perpetrated by other parties.
The report stresses that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have violated Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2254 by carrying out indiscriminate attacks. Also, The Syrian and Russian regime have violated Article 7 and 8 of Rome Statute through the act of willful killing, as well as violating the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life. Given that these violations were committed in a non-international armed conflict, they qualify as war crimes.
The report notes that the attacks by Coalition forces (the international coalition and SDF) caused extensive collateral damage that involved loss of lives, injuries, or significant damages to civilian facilities. There are strong indicators suggesting that the damage was extremely excessive compared to the anticipated military benefit.
The report adds that the other parties carried out attacks that resulted in civilian deaths, confirming that these violations might constitute war crimes, but don’t qualify as crimes against humanity as with the Syrian regime and its pro-regime forces.
The report calls on the Security Council to take additional steps following the adoption of resolutions 2139 and 2254. Also, the report stresses that the Syrian case should be referred to the International Criminal Court and all those involved should be held accountable, including the Russian regime whose involvement in war crimes has been repeatedly proven.
In addition, the report calls for the implementation of the ’Responsibility to Protect (R2P)’ norm, especially after all political channels have been exhausted, including agreements, as well as Cessation of Hostilities statements and the Astana agreements. The report stresses that action should be taken under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, and the ‘Responsibility to Protect ‘norm, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, should be implemented.
The report calls on the European Union and the United States of America to support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 71/248, adopted on December 21, 2016, and to establish local tribunals that enjoy universal jurisdiction, as well as addressing the war crimes perpetrated in Syria.
Also, the report calls on the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to launch investigations into the incidents included in this report and previous reports. The report stresses that SNHR is willing to cooperate and provide more evidences and data.
Additionally, the report calls on the Russian regime and international coalition forces to launch investigations into the incidents included in the report, to make the findings of these investigations public to the Syrian people, and to hold all who were involved accountable.
Further, the report calls on the states supporting the SDF to apply pressure on these forces in order to compel them to cease all of their violations in all the areas and towns that are under their control, and to cease all forms of support, including weapons.
Lastly, the report calls on armed opposition factions to ensure the protection of civilians in all of the areas under their control, as well as stating that armed opposition factions should distinguish between civilians and military targets, and cease any indiscriminate attacks.