Continuing Violations Amid a Paralyzed Political Process
(Link below to download full report)
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 February 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes the continuing nature of the violations amid a paralyzed political process.
The 30-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in February 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 the 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 138 civilians in February, including 23 children and 11 women (adult female), the largest percentage of whom were killed at the hands of other parties. The report also documents the deaths of 14 individuals who died due to torture, as well as recording three massacres.
The report further documents at least 171 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention in February at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including 11 children and seven women, with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian Democratic Forces in the governorates of Hasaka, then Deir Ez-Zour.
In addition to these incidents, the report also documents at least nine attacks on vital civilian facilities, one of which was carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and two by Syrian Democratic Forces, while six other incidents were bombings whose perpetrators SNHR has not yet been able to identify, with most of these incidents taking place in Aleppo governorate. Among these attacks, the report documents one attack on a medical facility, one on a place of worship and four on markets.
As the report reveals, the Syrian regime’s forces and allies continued their artillery and missile bombardment of cities and towns in the southern suburbs of Idlib, the western suburbs of Hama and the eastern suburbs of Aleppo near the front lines throughout February. The areas under the control of the Syrian National Army forces in the Afrin region and the eastern suburbs of Aleppo also saw missile and artillery shelling by Syrian Democratic Forces.
In February, the Badiya of the southern suburbs of Deir Ez-Zour saw intermittent battles launched by the Syrian regime, backed by Russian warplanes, against ISIS-affiliated elements.
Areas outside the control of Syrian regime forces in the north and east of Syria saw continuing attacks using explosives, primarily concentrated in Afrin region in Aleppo suburbs, Ras al Ein city in the northwestern suburbs of Hasaka governorate and Tal Abyad city in the northern suburbs of Raqqa governorate.
The report further reveals that assassinations continued throughout Syria, particularly in the governorates of Aleppo, Idlib, Daraa and Deir Ez-Zour. Mines also continue to claim civilian lives throughout Syria, particularly in the suburbs of Aleppo, Hama and Raqqa.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, the report reveals that the rate of COVID-19 coronavirus infections witnessed a significant decrease in all regions of Syria according to the statistics issued by the competent authorities, noting that the figures publicly announced, specifically by the Syrian regime, are inaccurate and that the actual number of deaths is far higher due to the lack of adequate medical services. The report adds that the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health in February officially announced 1,540 cases of infection and 106 deaths, while in northwestern Syria, more infections and deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in February, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing the documentation of 178 infections and 19 deaths for the month. In northeastern Syria, the Health Authority in the Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria announced that 132 cases of infection and 25 deaths were recorded in February.
The report also highlights the deteriorating living conditions in Syria, noting that the suffering of Syrian citizens continued to worsen in February due to the repercussions of the ongoing economic collapse, with manifestations of poverty and hunger becoming the norm in light of the inability of a large segment of society to secure the most basic foodstuffs. The report further notes that SNHR has documented the Syrian regime’s forces and militias continued looting of civilian and public property, with regime forces seizing vital civilian facilities and turning them into military headquarters in the areas where it seized control in the Idlib region in northwest Syria.
As the report reveals, the already impoverished camps in northern Syria continue to suffer from deteriorating humanitarian conditions, which are exacerbated by the harsh climatic conditions, adding that with the low temperatures, children and the elderly are also suffering from severe cold. The report documents in February the deaths of eight civilians, including two women, in al Hawl Camp at the hands of unknown gunmen believed to be affiliated with ISIS cells.
As the report reveals, residents of al Rukban Camp, located east of Homs near the Syrian-Jordanian border, including children and people with special needs in particular, continue to suffer from the spread of diseases, especially chest flu, in light of a complete siege, and the absence of medical centers.
The report elaborates on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the Syrian regime has dealt with it with callous, total and extreme disregard and absolute negligence. The report also notes that all the regions of Syria, particularly Idlib and surrounding areas, that have witnessed bombings, destruction and forced displacement are suffering from further challenges in addition to the usual ones; at the forefront of these challenges are the nearly 3 million Syrian IDPs, who have been unable to return to their homes, making them more vulnerable than others to infection with COVID-19. The report adds that the Syrian Jazira region is suffering from a similar situation, with Russia’s use of its United Nations veto causing the region to be denied direct UN aid, which is now provided exclusively through the Syrian regime.
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 killings, arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance. In addition, the indiscriminate attacks they have been 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 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 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 the Armed Opposition 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, in addition to making several more recommendations