Killings Continue Even After the OHCHR Announced That the Death Toll Has Reached 350,000 Syrian Citizens
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 86 civilians in Syria in September 2021, including 23 children, nine women and eight individuals due to torture, noting that the killings continue even after the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced that the death toll has reached 350,000 Syrian citizens.
The 15-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 September 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 September saw an overall decrease in the death toll of civilians, while documenting Syrian regime forces’ continuing indiscriminate and deliberate bombardment targeting civilians, adding that 28% of the documented death toll in September were killed by Syrian regime forces, most of them in Idlib and Daraa governorates.
Meanwhile, the report adds that 44 civilians (51% of the death toll documented in September) were killed at the hands of other parties.
As the report reveals, September also saw continuing civilian deaths as a result of landmine explosions in different governorates and regions of Syria, with SNHR documenting the deaths of 10 civilians, including eight children, bringing the civilian death toll caused by landmines since the beginning of 2021 to 142, including 58 children and 22 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 September, the deaths of four civilians have been documented, including two women, at the hands of unknown gunmen who are believed to be affiliated with ISIS cells. Since the beginning of 2021, the deaths of 69 civilians, including 10 children and 22 women, have documented in al Hawl Camp at the hands of unknown gunmen.
The report refers to the announcement of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, at the end of September, that 350,209 people have been identified killed in the conflict in Syria between March 2011 to March 2021, including 26,727 women and 27,126 children, noting that the largest number of killings was recorded in Aleppo governorate, followed by Damascus Suburbs, Homs, Idlib, then Hama. The report notes that the SNHR is a primary source for casualty data in all statistical analyses issued by the OHCHR.
As the report explains, the SNHR’s Victim Documentation team documented the deaths of 86 civilians, including 23 children and nine women (adult female) in September. This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 24 of the civilian victims, including five children and five women, killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, three civilians, including two children, killed at the hands of Russian forces, and four civilians, including one child, killed at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham. In addition, SNHR also documented the deaths of three civilians killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, eight civilians killed at the hands of all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army, and 44 civilians, including 15 children and four women, killed at the hands of other parties.
The report further reveals that the SNHR’s working team documented the deaths of eight individuals due to torture in September 2021; four of these victims died at the hands of Syrian regime forces, one died at the hands of all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army, two died at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, while one died at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces.
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.