The Ariha Massacre, the Largest Since March 2020, Embodies the Policy of the Syrian Regime, ‘Negotiating’ by Terror, Killing and Enforced Disappearance
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) states in its report released today that the Syrian regime committed a massacre in Ariha city, the largest since March 2020, killing 11 Syrian citizens, including four children, even as regime representatives were participating in the latest round of Constitutional Committee meetings, to shameful silence from the United Nations, adding that this massacre embodies the policy of the Syrian regime, ‘negotiating’ by terror, killing and enforced disappearance.
The 34-report page notes that the Syrian regime has used violence, threats and terror as a basic tool in all the rounds of negotiation it has participated in; over the past years, the regime has consistently followed the same policy of launching attacks on civilians and murdering political detainees during the negotiation rounds in Geneva, or during the rounds of talks on the Constitutional Committee. This shows the extent of the Syrian regime’s disregard for the negotiation process, and its belief that it is merely passing time before once again taking its place in the international arena.
As the report further reveals, only two days after the sixth round of the Constitutional Committee meetings were held, Syrian regime forces launched the largest military attack on northwest region of Syria since March 6, 2020, in terms of civilian casualties. The attack took place in the densely populated Ariha city, another clear indication of the Syrian regime’s indifference to the agreements that could result from these meetings.
The report documents the responsibility of the Syrian regime, with Russian support, for the attack on Ariha city in the southern suburbs of Idlib, highlighting the details of the ground attack. The report also refers to the statements of condemnation issued by international organizations and human rights bodies concerning this attack, as well as providing the record of the most notable violations committed by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces since March 6, 2020, (the date of entry into force of the Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreement) until October 28, 2021.
As the report reveals, on the morning of Wednesday, October 20, 2021, at around 08:01, Syrian regime artillery forces began bombarding the city, coinciding with a Russian reconnaissance aircraft flying over the area, and in conjunction with the students heading to their schools. The shelling lasted for about ten minutes, during which ten shells fell on separate areas in the city center, resulting in the deaths of 11 civilians, including four children and one woman (a teacher), and injured about 30 others, in addition to causing damage to four vital civilian facilities.
The report provides exclusive video footage from surveillance cameras that were close to the sites of the attacks, analyzes this footage and identifies the impact sites of most of the shells and the resulting casualties.
The report notes that the timing and intensity of the bombardment on an area of no more than 500 meters in diameter in the center of the city, which is devoid of any military features, is a deliberate act by the Syrian regime, with its aim being to cause the greatest number of civilian casualties, with the support of the Russian forces.
The report adds that the Ariha massacre is just one in a long series of violations committed by Syrian regime forces and regime’s allies in the Idlib region, one of the four de-escalation zones, which is also subject to the Russian-Turkish agreement – since March 2020. In this context, the report reveals that the attacks by Syrian-Russian alliance forces between March 6, 2020, and October 28, 2021, in northwest Syria have resulted in the deaths of 259 civilians, including 88 children and 41 women (adult female); 185 of the victims, including 60 children and 28 women, were killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while Russian forces killed 74 civilians, including 28 children and 13 women. The report also documents at least nine massacres during the same period, six of which were at the hands of Syrian regime forces and three at the hands of Russian forces, in addition to at least 60 attacks on vital civilian facilities, 51 of which were at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and nine at the hands of Russian forces
The report stresses that the attacks by the Russian/ Syrian military alliance included in this report have resulted in deaths of Syrian citizens, and in the injury and disability of many other people, as well as exacerbating the already extreme food and health-related suffering of the population, all of which add to the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in northwest Syria at various levels.
The report adds that the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance forces have unquestionably violated UN Security Council Resolutions No. 2139 and 2254 which ordered an end to indiscriminate attacks, and also violated international humanitarian law rules of distinction between civilians and combatants.
The report notes that neither the Russian or Syrian authorities have conducted any serious investigations into these attacks, or even into any other previous ones, with the Russian and Syrian leaderships, both military and political, bearing responsibility for these attacks based on the principle of command responsibility under international humanitarian law.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime does not care about the political transition process because this would lead to a transition from dictatorship to democracy.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to refer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and hold all those responsible accountable, while UNSC states’ veto power should be withheld when crimes against humanity and war crimes are committed. The report also calls on the UN Security Council to impose UN military and economic sanctions on the Syrian regime, especially the leaders involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The report recommends that the international community should support the political transition process and put pressure on the parties to compel them to implement the political transition within a time period of no more than six months, and to renew pressure on the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The report adds that the Russian and Iranian regimes should face heavy fines and financial penalties for the destruction of vital buildings and facilities in Syria. These sums should be reflected in the reparations for the victims and the restoration of the facilities and buildings whose destruction the two regimes contributed to.
The report further recommends that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) should work on identifying the responsibility of individuals within the Syrian regime who are involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes, publish their names to expose them to international public opinion and end all dealings with them at every political and economic level.
The report also calls on the UN Envoy to Syria to clearly assign responsibility to the party responsible for the death of the political process, and to disclose to the Syrian people the timing of the end of the political transition process, in addition to making several more recommendations.