The Most Notable Human Rights Violations in Syria in April 2021

The Syrian Regime’s President, Implicated in Committing Crimes against Humanity, Is Running for the Presidential Elections, with This Being the Most Prominent Reason for Its Illegitimacy


Press release:
(Link below to download full report)
Paris – 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 April 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that the Syrian Regime’s president, implicated in committing crimes against humanity, is running for the presidential elections, with this being the most prominent reason for its illegitimacy.
The 30-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in April 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 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 104 civilians in April, including 21 children and seven women (adult female), the largest percentage of whom were killed at the hands of other parties. The report also documents the deaths of 13 individuals who died due to torture, as well as at least one massacre at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report further documents at least 147 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention in April at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including one child and 19 women, with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian regime forces in the governorate of Daraa, then Aleppo governorate.
In addition to these incidents, the report also documents at least two attacks on vital civilian facilities, one of which was at the hands of Russian forces in Idlib governorates, while the other was as a result of a bombing, with the report being unable to identify its perpetrator.
As the report reveals, April saw a reduction in the rate of artillery and missile bombardment by Syrian regime forces and their allies on the cities and towns of the southern suburbs of Idlib, the western suburbs of Hama, and the eastern suburbs of Aleppo close to the front lines, while Russian warplanes launched several airstrikes in northwest Syria, most of which were on military sites controlled by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham.
The report notes that Syrian Democratic Forces stormed Jdaidet Kahit village in the eastern suburbs of Raqqa on April 18, with the SDF then arresting 15 civilians who were released on April 23.
The report additionally reveals that clashes using light and medium weapons broke out between Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian regime’s National Defense Forces militia on the evening of April 20, in al Wehda Street in al Qameshli city, which extended to the Tai neighborhood, which is the stronghold of the National Defense Forces there. On April 25, the clashes ceased as a result of Russian mediation, with Syrian Democratic Forces imposing their control over the entire neighborhood. These clashes resulted in the deaths of three civilians, including a child, and the injury of more than 20 other civilians who sustained moderate wounds, in addition to causing the displacement of dozens of families from the Tai neighborhood.
As the report adds, clashes continued in April between Syrian National Army forces and Syrian Democratic Forces in the villages of Ein Eisa in the northern suburbs of Raqqa, which are under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces. Also in April, bombings continued in all regions in Syria, especially those outside the control of Syrian regime forces in northern and eastern Syria, causing casualties. The bombings were concentrated in the areas of al Bab, Jarablos and Afrin in the suburbs of Aleppo, Ras al Ein city in the northwestern suburbs of Hasaka, and Tal Abyad city in the northern suburbs of Raqqa, causing casualties in these areas.
Assassinations also continued throughout Syria, concentrated in eastern Syria (the governorates of Deir Ez-Zour, Hasaka, and Raqqa) and south in Daraa governorate in addition to eastern Aleppo governorate. The report adds that mines continue to claim civilian lives across Syria; in April, SNHR documented the deaths of 11 civilians, including seven children, most of whom were killed in the suburbs of Aleppo, Hama and Raqqa.
The report further reveals that many shipments of the Coronavirus vaccine arrived in various Syrian regions in April, with the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health in April officially announced 3,824 cases of COVID-19 infection and 327 deaths, the highest monthly record since the announcement of the emergence of COVID-19 in Syria in March 22, 2020. In northwestern Syria, more infections and deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in April, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing the documentation of 665 infections and 16 deaths related to COVID-19 for the month. In Northeastern Syria, a total of 5,774 cases of infection and 200 deaths were recorded in April, announced by the Health Authority in the Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria, the highest monthly record since the announcement of the emergence of the pandemic in the region in March 2020.

Regarding living conditions, the report notes that the suffering of Syrians in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime increased in April, compared to the previous months, especially with the advent of the month of Ramadan, which is usually accompanied by additional requirements, with the fuel crisis having led to a large number of civilians suffering.
The report adds that the people of the Eastern Region also suffer from difficult humanitarian conditions, especially in securing bread, due to the lack of bakeries in the region, as well as the small quantities of flour available.
As the report reveals, the camps in north and east Syria continue to suffer from the deterioration of humanitarian and security conditions and with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, in conjunction with the social activities associated with the blessed month of Ramadan, there’s concern of the possible spread of the pandemic in the camps.
The report notes that the Syrian regime’s People’s Assembly announced the opening of the door for candidacy for the presidential elections as of Monday, April 19, and set the date for voting for Syrians who are not residing on Syrian territory at the embassies of the Syrian regime on May 20, and for Syrian citizens residing on Syrian territory on May 26. The report stresses that presidential elections which the Syrian regime plans to hold are illegitimate and imposed by the regime’s security services, and that they undermine the political process, with SNHR calling for Bashar al Assad to be held accountable for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The report adds that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) issued its second report on April 12, which confirmed the responsibility of the Syrian regime for the Saraqeb attack, on February 4, 2018, affecting 12 individuals. On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, the OPCW adopted a decision under which it suspended some of the rights and privileges of Syria as a member state of the OPCW.
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, which 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 suffers from a similar situation, as Russia’s use of its United Nations veto has caused 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 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 emphasizes that the Syrian regime must stop its 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, as well as making several additional recommendations.

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