The Syrian Network for Human Rights Website Has Been Subjected to the Most Violent Russian Cyber-Attacks in Years
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 October 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that the SNHR’s website has been subjected to the most violent Russian cyber-attacks in years.
The 26-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in October 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 84 civilians, including 22 children and four women (adult female), in October 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, in addition to two massacres committed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report documents at least 204 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention in October 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including one child and nine women, with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian regime forces in the governorates of Damascus Suburbs then Raqqa.
The report documents at least 14 attacks on vital civilian facilities in October 2021, 10 of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces and regime’s allies, and one by other parties.
As the report reveals, October saw the continuation of military operations by Syrian-Russian alliance forces in Idlib region in northwest Syria, with these operations expanded to include areas near the center of the region and other areas close to the Syrian-Turkish border. Most of the Syrian regime’s ground attacks were accompanied by Russian reconnaissance aircraft overflying the area. A Syrian regime ground attack on Ariha city in the southern suburbs of Idlib on October 20 resulted in a massacre of 11 civilians, including four children and one woman.
The Russian Air Force continued its periodic attacks in northwest Syria on the contact lines between the areas controlled by Syrian regime forces and the opposition factions in Jabal al Zaweya. Among these attacks was an airstrike on the outskirts of Marea city in the eastern suburbs of Aleppo, the first such attack on the area in years.
As the report reveals, Syrian regime forces entered Jasem city in the northern suburbs of Daraa on October 3; the locations affected by settlements in October included Inkhel city in the northern suburbs of Daraa, and al Jiza town in the eastern suburbs of Daraa.
The report monitors several bombings with explosive devices and motorcycle bombs in the suburbs of Aleppo, most notably, the explosion that resulted in a massacre in Afrin city on October 11. Tal Abyad city in the northwestern suburbs of Hasaka also witnessed bombings that caused material damage to infrastructure. October also saw continuing civilian deaths due to landmine explosions in different governorates and regions of Syria, mostly in the eastern suburbs of Aleppo and Daraa; SNHR documented many landmine explosions, which resulted in the deaths of seven civilians, including six children, bringing the civilian death toll caused by landmines since the beginning of 2021 to 149, including 64 children and 22 women.
As the report reveals, the economic situation continued to deteriorate in October in all regions of Syria, especially the areas under the control of the Syrian regime. In northwestern Syria, the population has suffered from the increasing pace in price rises of basic commodities, especially bread, fuel and heating materials, with the spread of unemployment further exacerbating the deteriorating situation in the region. Bread bakeries in the areas controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces in Deir Ez-Zour suburbs have also witnessed a crisis due to the high prices for a sack of flour, the lack of bakeries and the high costs of production.
In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report records in October an unprecedented increase in documented infections with the COVID-19 pandemic across Syria, the greatest such increase since the outbreak of the pandemic. As the report reveals, the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health officially announced 9,199 cases of COVID-19 infection and 319 deaths in October. The report adds that more infections and deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in October in northwestern Syria, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing the documentation of 15,871 infections and 649 deaths related to COVID-19 for the month. As for northeastern Syria, 7,559 cases of infection and 409 deaths were recorded in October, according to the Health Authority in the Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria.
The report notes that the official website of the Syrian Network for Human Rights has been subjected to very violent cyber-attacks since the beginning of October, aimed at obstructing browsing of the website, in preparation for permanently shutting it down, adding that the source of the vast majority of the attacks is Russia.
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 all Armed Opposition factions 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.