The Constitutional Committee’s Progress Makes No Sense in Light of the Syrian Regime’s Continuous Crimes against Humanity
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reveals in its report released today that at least 87 civilians have been killed since the start of the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement on January 12, 2020, noting that the continuation of the Constitutional Committee’s work makes no sense in light of the Syrian regime’s continuous crimes against humanity.
The 15-page report notes that since April 26, 2019, northwest Syria has seen a military escalation by Syrian-Russian alliance forces, which is the most violent to date compared to previous military campaigns seen in the region. In this time, the report notes, the region witnessed the declaration of four ceasefire agreements, stressing their failure in stopping military attacks and indiscriminate shelling.
This report includes a documentary record of the air attack launched by the Syrian regime’s fixed-wing warplanes on the east of Idlib city on January 15, 2020, and outlines the record of massacres committed by Syrian-Russian alliance forces since April 26, 2019, until January 27, 2020.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“Syrian Regime forces committing a massacre of this magnitude in Idlib three days after the alleged ceasefire agreement starkly affirms the impossibility of controlling the brutal Syrian regime with any kind of agreements including those in which its Russian ally is a direct party, and provides additional evidence that the Constitutional Committee can never succeed in its objectives or make Syrian society believe in or care about it, regardless of the efforts of the UN envoy and his team, as long as there is a continuity in committing crimes against humanity by the Syrian regime, the direct party in discussing the constitution!”
The report reveals that at least 87 civilians, including 33 children and 11 women (adult female), were killed, and four massacres committed, all at the hands of Syrian-Russian alliance forces in northwest Syria between January 12, 2020, and January 27, 2020. Syrian Regime forces killed 37 civilians, including eight children, three women, and committed one massacre, while Russian forces killed 50 civilians, including 25 children, eight women, and committed three massacres.
The report documents an air attack by fixed-wing Syrian regime (MiG-23) warplanes on Wednesday, January 15, 2020. As the report states, the attack resulted in the deaths of 22 civilians, including two children, and injured around 68 others; among the fatalities was a member of the Syrian Civil Defense. The report notes that this massacre, which is considered the largest in terms of the death toll for a single incident, came just three days after the supposed declaration of a ceasefire.
The report notes that the Idlib massacre is simply one in a long series of massacres committed by Syrian-Russian alliance forces, which are encouraged by the failure of the Security Council to protect civilians, and the international community’s failure to form a civilizational alliance to take over the task of protecting civilians in light of the Security Council’s failure. Given this apparent impunity for every type of violation, Syrian-Russian alliance forces have committed almost limitless violations of every variety. Meanwhile, the report emphasizes that Russia is the sponsor of the ceasefire agreements, despite Russia and its ally, the Syrian regime, being by far the most prolific violators of those agreements.
The report records that Syrian-Russian alliance forces committed 66 massacres in northwest Syria between April 26, 2019, and January 27, 2020. Syrian Regime forces committed 45 massacres, while Russian forces committed 21 massacres, noting that four of which occurred after the last ceasefire agreement entered into force on January 12 until January 27, 2020.
The report further reveals that these massacres resulted in the deaths of 542 civilians, including 187 children and 107 women (adult female). This means that 55 percent of all the victims were women and children, which is a very high proportion of the casualties, and a clear indication that civilian residents were specifically targeted in most of these massacres.
As the report notes, the Syrian regime has committed heinous crimes and violations against Syrian civilians for over eight years to date. 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 to the Syrian regime by Russia, which has routinely used its veto in the case of the Syrian regime, despite the Syrian regime’s failure to abide by its responsibility for the protection of civilians and committing the most egregious violations against them, reaching the level of crimes against humanity, and extermination within detention centers through torture.
Furthermore, the report states, the type of “conscience-shocking situations” which the UN is required to take action to prevent are exactly what have continued to happen in Syria on a staggering scale, 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. In this context, the report cites 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 Syrian and Russian forces have violated several rules of international humanitarian law, primarily through their failure to discriminate between civilians and combatants, and between civilian and military targets, bombing hospitals, schools, centers and civilian neighborhoods, with these violations amounting to war crimes.
The report further notes that displacement or forced displacement is another war crime in non-international armed conflicts when committed as part of a deliberate or widespread attack against the civilian population, and may also be considered crimes against humanity.
The report further calls on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution to stabilize the ceasefire in Idlib and to include punitive measures for all violators of the cease-fire, to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court and to ensure that all those involved, including the Russian regime, are held accountable, having been implicated in committing war crimes.
The report also presents a set of recommendations to the international community, the UN General Assembly, the OHCHR, and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (CoI), as well as calling on the donor countries and the OCHA to ensure basic living conditions and to pay attention to the needs of and help provide care for thousands of displaced Syrians who are displaced in the north-western Idlib suburbs, with the most pressing basic needs, primarily water, food, housing, clothing and medical care.