Idlib and Daraa Saw the Highest Civilian Death Toll at the Hands of the Syrian Regime and Its Allies
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced in its monthly report released today that extrajudicial killing claimed the lives of 129 civilians in Syria in July 2021, including 44 children, 17 women and 10 individuals due to torture, noting that Idlib and Daraa governorates saw the highest civilian death toll of victims at the hands of the Syrian regime and its allies in all Syrian governorates.
The 25-page report states that the crime of murder has become widespread and systematic, mainly at the hands of Syrian regime forces and affiliated militias, adding that the entry of several parties into the Syrian conflict has increased the importance and complexity of documenting the victims killed in Syria.
The report notes that since 2011, the SNHR has created complex electronic programs to archive and categorize the victims’ data, enabling the SNHR to catalogue victims according to the gender and location where each was killed, the governorate from which each victim originally came, and the party responsible for the killing, and to make comparisons between these parties, and identify the governorates which lost the largest proportion of residents. The report catalogues the death toll of victims according to the governorate in which they were killed, rather than by the governorate they originally came from.
This report details the death toll of victims documented killed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in July 2021, particularly focusing on the victims amongst children and women, and those who died due to torture.
As the report explains, the statistics provided for the death toll of victims include those related to extrajudicial killings by the controlling forces in each area which occurred as a violation of both International Human Rights Law or International Humanitarian Law, and do not include deaths arising from natural causes or those caused by disputes between individual members of society.
The report also includes the distribution of the death toll of victims according to the perpetrator parties, noting that there is great difficulty in determining the party that planted landmines, due to the multiplicity of forces controlling the areas in which these explosions occurred, and therefore the report does not attribute the vast majority of killings due to landmines to a specific party. None of the perpetrator forces in the Syrian conflict have revealed maps of the places where they planted landmines.
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 notes that the July saw a continuation of the military escalation by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces in the Idlib region in northwest Syria. In July, the report records an increase in the death toll at the hands of Syrian regime forces and Russian forces (approximately 52% of the total death toll). The report further reveals that according to daily monitoring operations, most of the attacks were by artillery, with the report documenting the use of types of shells whose deployment had not previously been recorded in the Syrian conflict. The report adds that at the end of July, Daraa governorate in southern Syria saw a violent military escalation by Syrian regime forces, targeting civilians with heavy artillery, resulting in casualties, most of whom were children. The report notes that the Daraa al Balad area has been under siege by Syrian regime forces and affiliated militias since mid-June 2021.
As the report reveals, July also saw continuing civilian deaths as a result of landmine explosions in different governorates and regions of Syria, with SNHR documenting the deaths of eight civilians, including five children, bringing the civilian death toll caused by landmines since the beginning of 2021 to 117, including 44 children and 21 women.
In addition, the report reveals that al Hawl Camp, in the eastern suburbs of Hasaka, which is under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces, saw the continuation of killings by unknown gunmen. In July, the deaths of seven civilians have been documented, including three women, at the hands of unknown gunmen who are believed to be affiliated with ISIS cells.
As the report explains, the SNHR’s Victim Documentation team documented the deaths of 129 civilians, including 44 children and 17 women (adult female) in July. This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 46 of the civilian victims, including 20 children and six women, killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, 21 civilians, including 12 children and three women, killed at the hands of Russian forces, and one civilian killed at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham. In addition, SNHR also documented the deaths of 11 civilians, including two children, killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and 50 civilians, including 10 children and eight women, killed at the hands of other parties.
The report documents the death of one medical worker at the hands of Syrian regime forces, in addition to documenting the death of one media worker and one member of the Civil Defense personnel at the hands of Russian forces.
The report further reveals that the SNHR’s working team documented the deaths of 10 individuals due to torture in July 2021; eight of these victims died at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while two died at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces.
The report also documents four massacres in July 2021, two of which were committed by Syrian regime forces and the other two by Russian forces, with the term ‘massacre’ used to refer to any attack that caused the death of at least five peaceful individuals in the same incident.
As the report notes, the evidence collected by SNHR indicates that some of the attacks documented in the report were deliberately directed against civilians and civilian objects. These attacks along with indiscriminate bombardment have resulted in the destruction of facilities and buildings. The report notes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.
The report adds that the use of explosive arms munitions to target densely populated areas reflects a criminal mindset intent on deliberately inflicting the greatest possible number of deaths, which is a clear contravention of international human rights law and a flagrant violation of the fourth Geneva Convention (articles 27, 31, 32).
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 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’ doctrine after all political channels have proved fruitless throughout all the agreements reached, 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 further recommends that the international community should work to launch projects to create maps revealing the locations of landmines and cluster munitions in all Syrian governorates. This would facilitate the process of clearing them and educating the population about their locations.
The report additionally 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, as well as calling them on to focus on the issue of landmines and cluster munitions within the next report.
The report also stresses that the Syrian regime must stop the indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, as well as ending its acts of torture that have caused the deaths of thousands of Syrian citizens in detention centers, and complying with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
The report stresses that the states supporting the SDF should cease all forms of support until the SDF commits itself to complying with the rules of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The report calls on the Armed Opposition and Syrian National Army to ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, 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 calls on all the parties to the conflict to provide detailed maps of the locations where they have planted landmines, especially civilian sites or areas near residential communities, as well as making several additional recommendations.