Cluster Munitions, Barrel Bombs, Incendiary Weapons, Nail Missiles, Chemical Weapons
The Syrian Network for Human Rights has today issued a report documenting the most important types of weapons used by the Russian-Syrian alliance on populated areas in northwestern Syria during the recent military campaign.
The 25-page report reveals that the Russian regime has treated the northwestern region of Syria as a real and effective training ground for testing weapons manufactured by Russian companies, using Syria as a laboratory rather than testing the weapons in empty areas within Russia, with the Russian regime unashamed to repeatedly announce its testing of weapons on Syrian territory against civilian targets, including hospitals, schools, markets and residential buildings, amid unprecedented international silence.
The report highlights the types and quantities of the most notable types of weapons used by the Russian-Syrian alliance against the northwestern region of Syria between April 26, 2019, and August 19, 2019, such as incendiary weapons, cluster munitions, regular missiles, nails-filled missiles, and barrel bombs, extending to chemical weapons of mass destruction, stressing that the attacks by the Russian-Syrian alliance have taken place almost daily and that this widespread and repeated use of multiple types of weapons is taking place within a confined geographical area of almost 7,000 square kilometers, with nearly 3.2 million inhabitants either residents or displaced people, more than half of whom are women and children, with all of this causing a wave of fear, terror and repeated displacement.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, adds:
“The indifference of the international community, and in particular the civilized leading countries of the world, to what is happening in northwestern Syria has given carte blanche to Russia to issue terrible announcements of its marketing of new types of weapons tested in Syria, and has enabled the Syrian regime to repeatedly use barrel bombs, cluster munitions and chemical weapons. International Humanitarian Law has never been insulted in this way before. All legal professionals in the world must stand up to the war crimes committed by Syrian Regime forces, Russia and the other parties to the conflict.”
Since the beginning of the escalation and the military attacks by the Russian, Iranian and Syrian Regime forces on the fourth de-escalation zone on April 26, 2019, up until August 19, 2019, the report documents at least 3,172 barrel bombs, 22 cluster munitions attacks, 20 incendiary weapons attacks, seven nail-filled missile attacks, and one chemical weapons attack.
The report also states that at least 843 civilians, including 223 children, and 152 women (adult female) were killed in the fourth de-escalation zone by Russian-Syrian alliance forces in the same period covered by the report, of whom Syrian Regime forces killed 670 civilians, including 184 children and 120 women, while Russian forces killed 173 civilians, including 39 children and 32 women.
According to the report, the attacks by Russian-Syrian alliance forces resulted in at least 381 assaults on civilian vital facilities, including 82 on places of worship, 112 on schools, 48 on medical facilities, and 39 on Civil Defense Centers. The Syrian regime was responsible for 284 attacks, while Russian forces were responsible for 97 attacks.
The report notes that the Syrian and Russian regimes’ use of various types of improvised weapons, indiscriminately and sometimes intentionally, against populated areas and vital facilities has caused panic and terror among residents, forcibly displacing them, either as IDPs or refugees, or forcing them to flee towards areas controlled by the Syrian regime or Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, because these areas are safer, especially in the absence of aerial bombardment daily and suddenly threatening the lives of residents there. In addition, these weapons cause massive destruction to properties, houses and shops owned by Syrian citizens who have spent many years and often whole lifetimes on building and maintaining them, with these attacks destroying livelihoods as well as homes, and forcing the displacement of residents, stripping them of their most precious possessions and pushing them to the brink of bankruptcy.
As the report states, for eight years, the Syrian regime has committed grave crimes and violations against Syrian civilians. It has also consistently failed to respond to any of the demands of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, or to those of the High Commission for Human Rights, or even to Security Council resolutions. The Security Council, which was supposed to take collective measures and action under Article 41 and 42 of the Charter of the United Nations, also failed because of the immunity granted by Russia to the Syrian regime, with Russia routinely using its veto in the case of the Syrian regime, which not only failed to abide by the responsibility for the protection of civilians, but committed the most egregious violations against them, reaching the level of crimes against humanity, and extermination within detention centers through torture.
Furthermore, according to the report, the conscience-shocking situations which the UN is required to take action to prevent are exactly what have continued to happen in Syria, not only in the form of one massacre or one violation but in industrial-scale, continuous killings and torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearances, the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs, and besieging civilians, quoting from a report issued in December 2001 by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which stressed that: “The Security Council should take into account in all its deliberations that, if it fails to discharge its responsibility to protect in conscience-shocking situations crying out for action, concerned states may not rule out other means to meet the gravity and urgency of that situation.”
The report stresses that the use of outlawed weapons by Syrian Regime forces, as well as by Russian forces, is considered a violation of both the principles of distinction and of proportionality in international humanitarian law, and constitutes a war crime, noting that the Syrian government has unquestionably violated the UN Security Council Resolutions No. 2139 and 2254 and used barrel bombs in a systematic and widespread manner, and also violated Article 7 of the Rome Statute by committing intentional homicide in a systematic and widespread manner, with these actions constituting crimes against humanity.
The report further notes that Syrian Regime forces in all their forms and their leaders are involved in committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people, and that anyone who provides them with material, political and military assistance, such as the Russian and Iranian government, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and others, is considered a partner in these crimes, and is thereby subject to criminal prosecution.
The report calls on the Security Council to ensure the serious implementation of its resolutions, in particular Resolution 2139 on the cessation of the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian regime, with these resolutions having turned into mere, meaningless ink on paper, meaning that the Security Council has absolutely lost any credibility, along with the legitimacy of its existence.
The report also calls on the four other permanent Security Council members to put pressure on the Russian government to end its support for the Syrian regime, which uses chemical weapons and barrel bombs, and to expose its involvement in this regard.
The report calls on the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government, and to prosecute all those who provide it with money and weapons, given the risk of these weapons being used in serious human rights crimes and violations.
The report considers that in the Syrian case, the Security Council has the authority to refer the case to the International Criminal Court, and notes that it has been blocking this action for five years rather than providing all facilitations and imposing peace and security, calling on it to begin to prosecute anyone proved involved in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The report urges the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) to consider documenting incidents indicating the use of indiscriminate and outlawed weapons by the Syrian-Russian alliance, and to prepare a special report on the locations where Syrian-Russian alliance forces used cluster bombs in order to warn the people of these areas and expedite the clearance of unexploded ordnance.
The report further calls for action to be taken on the national and regional levels to form alliances to support the Syrian people by protecting them from daily killing, adding that steps should be taken under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, while asserting the norm of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, should be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.
The report calls on the Russian and Iranian regimes to stop supporting the Syrian regime with weapons and troops after several bodies in the United Nations and international organizations have proven their involvement in committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, with continued support for the Syrian regime considered to be direct involvement in these crimes, and to stop treating Syrian territory as a testing ground for the marketing and sale of Russian weapons.