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The Most Notable Human Rights Violations in Syria in the First Half of 2020


Explosive Devices, Spread of COVID-19 Pandemic, and the Deteriorating Economic Situation Are the Most Prominent Factors Affecting Syrian Citizens’ Lives in the First Half of the Year


Press release:
(Link below to download full report)
The 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 June and in the first half of 2020 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that explosive devices, spread of COVID-19 pandemic, and the deteriorating economic situation are the most prominent factors affecting Syrian citizens’ lives in the first half of this year.
The 35-page report outlines the timeline of the major events that occurred in the first half of 2020, and includes a comparison between the most notable types of human rights violations documented by SNHR in the first half of 2020, as compared to those documented by the SNHR in the first half of 2019. The report also provides a summary of the most notable violations SNHR documented in June and in the first half of 2020, 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 arrests and enforced disappearances. The report also highlights indiscriminate attacks, the use of outlawed weapons (cluster munitions, chemical weapons, barrel bombs, incendiary weapons), and attacks on civilian objects.
The report includes records of these violations distributed according to each of the main perpetrator parties responsible. Accurately ascribing responsibility sometimes requires more time and investigation than usual, especially in the case of joint attacks. On some occasions, when we are unable to definitively assign responsibility for specific attacks to one particular party, as in the case of air strikes by Syrian or Russian warplanes, Syrian-Iranian attacks, or attacks by Syrian Democratic Forces and US-led coalition, we indicate that responsibility for these attacks is held jointly by the parties in question until we are able to likely establish which one of the parties was responsible, or it’s proved that the attack was a joint initiative carried out in coordination between the two parties.
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 1,006 civilians, including 218 children and 113 women (adult female), in the first half of 2020, with the highest percentage of killings being carried out at the hands of Syrian-Russian alliance forces. Among the victims were nine medical personnel, three media workers, and three Civil Defense personnel.
The report also documents the deaths of 71 individuals who died due to torture, and at least 30 massacres, noting that 96 civilians, including 11 children and 10 women (adult female), were documented killed in June. Among the victims were 14 individuals who died due to torture, and at least two massacres.
The report documents at least 947 cases of arbitrary arrests/ detention in the first half of 2020 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces, including 17 children and 23 women (adult female), with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian Regime forces.
The report also documents at least 152 cases of arbitrary arrests/ detention in June at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including two children and six women (adult female), with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian Regime forces in Deir Ez-Zour governorate then Aleppo governorate.
The report documents in the first half of 2020 at least 277 attacks on vital civilian facilities, 228 of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian-Russian alliance forces, mostly in Idlib governorate. Among these attacks, 50 were on schools, 22 were on medical facilities and 75 others were on places of worship.
The report further reveals that the SNHR’s team documented at least six attacks on vital civilian facilities in June, all of which involved detonation of explosive devices, with SNHR so far unable to identify the perpetrators. Of these attacks, one was on a school, and three were on markets.
As the report reveals, Syrian Regime forces carried out four cluster munition attacks in the first half of 2020 in the governorates of Idlib and Hama, resulting in the deaths of 12 civilians, including seven children and three women, and injuring 27 others. One of these attacks was documented in June, targeting Hama governorate.
The report documents that in in the first half of 2020 at least 474 barrel bombs were dropped by Syrian regime’s air force, fixed-wing and helicopters, on the governorates of Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama, resulting in the deaths of 13 civilians, including four children and two women, as well as damaging at least 27 vital civilian facilities, including five schools, eight places of worship and two medical facilities.
The report reveals that the evidence we gathered indicates that attacks were directed against civilians and civilian objects. Syrian-Russian alliance forces committed various crimes of extrajudicial killings, arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance. In addition, the indiscriminate attacks they 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 resolution 2139, resolution 2042 on the release of detainees, and resolution 2254, all without any accountability.
SNHR was unable to find any records of any warnings being issued by the Syrian Regime or Russian forces prior to any attack in accordance with the requirements of international humanitarian law. This has been the case since the beginning of the popular uprising in 2011, providing further blatant evidence of these forces’ total disregard for the lives of civilians in Syria.
The report adds that the instances of indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment carried out by the alliance of US-led coalition and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are considered to be in clear violation of international humanitarian law, with 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 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 also 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 persons camps, and to follow up with those States that have pledged voluntary contributions.
The report calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ 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’, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly.
The report calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) 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.
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, empowering the Constitutional Committee prior to the establishment of a transitional governing body.
The report emphasizes that the Russian regime must launch investigations into the incidents included in this report, make the findings of these investigations public for the Syrian people, and hold the individuals involved accountable, and demands that the Russian regime, as a guarantor party in Astana talks, should stop thwarting de-escalation agreements, achieve a breakthrough in the issue of detainees by revealing the fate of those forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime, and stop using cluster munitions and incendiary weapons.
The report also stresses that the Syrian regime must stop the indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, and stop using prohibited munitions and barrel bombs, as well as ending the acts of torture that have caused the deaths of thousands of Syrian citizens in detention centers. The report adds that the Syrian Regime must also reveal the fate of 83,000 Syrian citizens previously arrested by the regime’s own security apparatus, whose fate it has concealed to date, and comply with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
The report also calls on the US-led coalition to acknowledge that some of their bombing operations have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, and demands that the coalition launch serious investigations, as well as compensating and apologizing to the victims and all those affected.
The report stresses that the states supporting the SDF 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 all forms of support, military and all others, should be ceased unless the SDF stops all its violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The report adds 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 the Armed Opposition and the Syrian National Army to ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, and urges them to investigate incidents that have resulted in civilian casualties, as well as calling 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.

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