Delivering UN Aid Through the Syrian Regime, Which Is Involved in the Displacement of Millions of Citizens and in the Looting of Aid, Is a Flagrant International Failure
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 August 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that delivering UN aid through the Syrian regime, which is involved in the displacement of millions of citizens and in the looting of aid, is a flagrant international failure.
The 23-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in August 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 indiscriminate attacks and the use of outlawed weapons (cluster munitions, chemical weapons, barrel bombs, incendiary weapons) and 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 94 civilians, including 32 children and 10 women (adult female), in August 2021, with the highest percentage of killings being carried out at the hands of other parties. Among the victims were seven individuals who died due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report documents at least 207 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention in August 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including seven children and 14 women, with the largest percentage of these carried out by the Armed Opposition/ Syrian National Army, all in Aleppo governorate.
The report documents at least nine attacks on vital civilian facilities in August 2021, four of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces, one by Russian forces, one by Syrian Democratic Forces, two as a result of bombings, with the report being unable to identify their perpetrators, and one by unknown persons.
The report also documents one attack using incendiary weapons in August carried out by Syrian regime forces on the outskirts of al Ziadiya village in the western suburbs of Hama governorate.
As the report reveals, August saw the continuation of military operations by Syrian-Russian alliance forces in Idlib region in northwest Syria for the third consecutive month, with these operations concentrated in the Jabal al Zaweya area and its surroundings, as well as near the contact lines, being conducted in particular via ground bombardment. The report notes that the frequency of Russian air attacks on Jabal al Zaweya area has escalated since August 5, with most of the air attacks having concentrated on the outskirts of the towns of al Bara and Kansafra in the southern and eastern sector of Jabal al Zaweya in the southern suburbs of Idlib.
The report adds that Syrian regime forces also continued their military campaign against the Daraa al Balad area, and the Tareeq al Sadd and Camps neighborhoods in Daraa city, in addition to bombarding cities and towns in the western suburbs of Daraa, including Tafas city, the towns of al Yadouda, al Mzayreeb, and al Ajami village. The neighborhoods of Daraa city saw several attempted advances by Syrian regime forces, which were challenged by the local fighters. The Syrian regime continued to besiege the Daraa al Balad area, the Tareeq al Sadd and Camps neighborhoods in Daraa city for the second month in a row; on August 5, the regime blocked al Saraya checkpoint with earth berms, completely preventing the displaced civilians from leaving to the Daraa al Mahatta area
As the report reveals, August also saw attacks by Syrian Democratic Forces using missile launchers and artillery on the northern and northwestern suburbs of Aleppo, which are under the control of Syrian National Army forces, targeting the centers of some cities such as Afrin and al Bab, and villages close to the contact lines between these forces and the Syrian National Army factions. The bombardment resulted in casualties and material losses. In terms of bombings, the report notes that Ras al Ein city in the northwestern suburbs of Hasaka and Tal Abyad city in the northwestern suburbs of Raqqa both saw bombings that caused material damage to the infrastructure. The report adds that August saw a continuing civilian deaths due to landmine explosions in different governorates and regions of Syria. SNHR documented many landmine explosions, which resulted in the deaths of 15 civilians, including six children and one woman. The report also documented incidents of explosion of remnants left over from previous bombardment also resulted in the deaths of many civilians in northwest Syria this month.
As the report reveals, the siege imposed by Syrian regime forces and affiliated militias on neighborhoods of Daraa city has caused a deterioration in living conditions due to the high prices of foodstuffs and the scarcity of medicines and baby milk. In addition to the above, the only bakery in the area suspended its work on August 9 due to the shortage of flour and fuel.
Regarding the living conditions in the areas under the control of Syrian regime forces, most of these areas saw an escalation of popular discontent on social media due to the deteriorating security situation and the spread of theft and murder gangs, in addition to poor services, fuel cuts and crowding around bread bakeries. As for northwest Syria, prices of basic food items and vegetables are witnessing a significant increase, affected by fluctuations in the exchange rate of the Turkish lira and the monopoly of traders.
The report adds that Hayat Tahrir al Sham and the Salvation Government issued several statements banning the entry of some goods and materials, especially vegetables, from Afrin areas in the northwestern suburbs of Aleppo to the areas of Idlib suburbs through al Ghazawiya crossing in the western suburbs of Aleppo. As for the areas controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces, in particular the suburbs of Deir Ez-Zour, these are witnessing a continuous crisis in the availability of bread due to the high prices for a sack of flour, the lack of operating bakeries and the high production costs.
In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report records in August a significant increase in documented infections and deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the northwest region of Syria, where the highest monthly record of infections was recorded since the outbreak of the pandemic was announced there in July 2020. As the report reveals, the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health officially announced 1,952 cases of COVID-19 infection and 99 deaths in August. In light of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its large-scale increased proliferation, the report expresses concerns that it will spread widely among the displaced people of Daraa who are now living in overcrowded shelter centers in the Daraa al Mahatta area, which they are prevented by Syrian regime forces from leaving. The report adds that more infections and deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in August in northwestern Syria, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing the documentation of 11,438 infections and 38 deaths related to COVID-19 for the month. The report further adds that the second half of August saw an unprecedented upsurge in the daily recorded number of cases of infection with the COVID-19 pandemic in northwestern Syria, due to the spread of the mutated Delta in the absence of precautionary measures, with the total documented cases reaching 1,262 cases as of August 29, which is the highest daily record since the first recorded case in northwestern Syria. As for northeastern Syria, a total of 1,800 cases of infection and 20 deaths were recorded in August, according to the Health Authority in the Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria.
The report notes that on August 30, three trucks carrying relief materials for the World Food Program (WFP) travelled from the areas controlled by the Syrian regime to areas controlled by the opposition factions and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham via the Mizanaz and Ma’aret al Na’san crossing in the northeastern suburbs of Idlib, followed by 12 more trucks the next day. This convoy is the first step in implementing the resolution to deliver cross-line humanitarian aid, which was approved in Security Council Resolution 2585.
The report notes that the besieged neighborhoods of Daraa city, namely Daraa al Balad, Tareeq al Sadd neighborhood, the Palestinian refugee camp and the camp for IDPs from Golan, saw a movement of displacement on foot towards other neighborhoods in Daraa city that are under the control of Syrian regime forces. Since August 30, the towns of the western suburbs of Daraa have also seen another movement of displacement due to the escalation of the military campaign against these areas. Despite the failure to reach an agreement between Syrian regime forces and the people of the besieged neighborhoods of Daraa city, two convoys carrying soldiers and civilians left Daraa city towards northern Syria through the Abu al Zandin crossing, separating the areas controlled by Syrian regime forces and Syrian National Army.
The report further notes that Syrian regime forces have also continued their policy of seizing homes in Daraa governorate, which they began on July 27, 2021, after civilian residents fled from these areas as the forces entered them and turned them into the front lines for clashes between Syrian regime forces and affiliated militias on one hand, and fighters from the area on the other.
The report further reveals that in August, al Hawl Camp, located east of Hasaka city, also continued to witness deaths at the hands of unknown gunmen; the report document the deaths of eight civilians there, including two women.
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 killing, 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.