The State’s Collapse and Society’s Fragmentation
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has released its eleventh annual report since the start of the popular uprising in March 2011, entitled: “The State’s Collapse and Society’s Fragmentation”. The report documents the most notable human rights violations at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria during 2021. Most notably among these in 2021 were the deaths of 1,271 civilians, including 299 children, 104 deaths due to torture, and 2,218 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention, in addition to nearly 86,000 more people being forcibly displaced.
As the 136-page report reveals, although there has been a numerical decline in the extent of some violations, the Syrian people in all regions are still subjected to violations, many of which are considered the worst in the world. The effects of these violations are not measured or felt in the abstract, apart from the terrible accumulation of the past ten years, during which the violations have continued without pause. The report adds that the Syrian state has now become simply a setting for an exchange of fire in proxy international conflicts, a weapons-testing laboratory, and a backdrop for the establishment and recruitment of militias and mercenary groups, with Syria’s geographical territory disintegrating into five spheres of influence, each of which is also a setting for its own internal inter-state conflicts, without any consideration or respect for the laws of war. At the same time, none of the parties involved in administering these territories respect the rights of their residents, forcing the majority of the Syrian people towards displacement and seeking asylum. Repression and corruption have, to date, caused the displacement of 13 million Syrian citizens and the destruction of thousands of vital facilities and millions of buildings, in addition to bringing about a comprehensive economic collapse, while Syrians in general have lost the ability to initiate any meaningful action for positive change amid the maelstrom surrounding them, reaching a state of paralysis and absolute powerlessness in which they are denied any substantial role.
The report states that the main cause of all the unimaginable suffering that the country and the people have endured from this comprehensive collapse is the Syrian regime, which flatly rejected the just, popular demands for genuine democratic elections to end the despotic dynastic rule of the ruling family and the brutal, pervasive control of its security services; instead, the regime met these long-denied demands for fundamental human rights with murderous iron and fire, enabled by the security services’ blind loyalty and the support of the regime’s dictatorial and totalitarian allies globally provided in exchange for the functional services provided by the regime to various countries at the expense of the dignity and freedom of Syria. Based on all these factors, the regime has inflicted the most atrocious types of violations, many of which amount to crimes against humanity, as was proven by the Koblenz Court in the sentence it recently issued against a former regime official.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“The talk among some countries about normalizing relations with the Syrian regime was one of the most reprehensible issues in 2021; even worse was the failure of democratic countries to object to this intolerable proposal, which gives no consideration to the millions of Syrian people who are victims of murder, torture, and displacement by the Syrian regime, which has not changed in any way from its brutal behavior towards Syria’s people, and which still completely rejects any political solution based on democratic principles that respect fundamental tenets of universal human rights. Also, the other parties involved in the conflict in Syria are still engaged in committing multiple violations, with all still continuing to prey upon the ruins of the collapsed Syrian state.”
The report provides a record of the most notable human rights violations committed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in 2021, as well as providing comparisons between the most notable patterns of violations SNHR documented in 2020 and 2021. Additionally, the report provides details of landmark key political, human rights, and military events that occurred in 2021, to give a clearer picture of the context of the events during which the violations occurred. The report also documents the most prominent political, military, and human rights events and investigations related to Syria in 2021. The report also touches on the accountability process, pointing out that the steps taken in the accountability process remain far less than the desired limits and are incapable of deterring the perpetrators of these violations from committing further crimes or holding them accountable. The report also refers to the role of the Syrian Network for Human Rights in supporting this process, noting that throughout 2021, the SNHR issued approximately 73 reports and nearly 1,056 news bulletins, in which it addressed multiple types of the most notable human rights violations, and which included approximately 156 testimonies of victims who have been subjected to various types of violations, been injured, or survived attacks, as well as testimonies from paramedics, central signal workers and victims’ family members, all of which were collected through speaking directly with eyewitnesses, rather than being cited from any open sources.
According to SNHR’s database, 1,271 civilians, including 299 children and 134 women (adult female), were documented as being killed at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in 2021. Of this total, 261 civilians, including 68 children and 32 women, were killed by Syrian regime forces, and the Syrian regime committed five massacres, while 65 civilians, including 32 children and seven women, were killed by Russian forces, and four massacres were committed by Russian forces. 2021 saw also the deaths of seven civilians, including two children, at the hands of ISIS, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed 17 civilians, including five children.
The report also documents the deaths of 24 civilians, including three children and two women, at the hands of all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army forces. The report also documents the deaths of 75 civilians, including 11 children and two women, at the hands of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, while US-led coalition forces killed two civilians.
Lastly, the report records that 820 civilians, including 178 children and 91 women, were killed at the hands of other parties.
As the report further reveals, 2021 saw approximately 2,218 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention, including 85 children and 77 women (adult female). Syrian regime forces were responsible for the arbitrary arrest/ detention of 1,032 of these individuals, including 19 children and 23 women, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham was responsible for 121 cases, including one child, and 420 individuals, including six children and 47 women, were arbitrarily arrested/ detained at the hands of all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army, while Syrian Democratic Forces arbitrarily arrested/ detained 645 individuals, including 59 children and seven women.
The report notes that at least 104 individuals were documented as being killed under torture in 2021, including 78 individuals who died due to torture at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while 15 died at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, five died at the hands of all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army, four died at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, while two others died due to torture at the hands of other parties.
The report also focuses on the most significant violations against medical personnel and media workers in 2021, revealing that the number of medical personnel killed was seven, one of whom was killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and six others by other parties. In addition, the report reveals that one media worker was killed in Syria in 2021, at the hands of Russian forces.
As the report further reveals, at least 113 incidents of attacks on vital civilian facilities were committed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in 2021, of which 52 were perpetrated by Syrian regime forces and 14 by Russian forces, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham and all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army were responsible for one such attack each, and Syrian Democratic Forces carried out 11.
The report also documents 34 attacks on vital civilian facilities committed by other parties.
The report documents one cluster munition attack in 2021, carried out by Russian forces targeting Aleppo governorate.
As the report details, nearly 86,000 more civilians were forcibly displaced in 2021, as a result of military operations launched by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces in northern and western Syria.
The report stresses that the UN Security Council should take additional steps following the adoption of Resolution 2254, which states unequivocally that all parties should: “… immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such…”, and should find ways and mechanisms to implement Security Council Resolutions 2041, 2042, 2139 and Article 12 of Resolution 2254 regarding detainees and forcibly disappeared persons in Syria.
The report further emphasizes that members of the Security Council must stop using their veto to protect the Syrian regime, which has committed hundreds of thousands of violations over the past ten years, many of which constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, with the report stressing that there is a need to refer the Syrian issue from the Security Council to the United Nations General Assembly, as well as to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court and hold all those involved in perpetrating crimes accountable.
The report urges the Security Council to seriously work to achieve a political transition under the Geneva Communiqué and Security Council Resolution No. 2254, to ensure the stability and territorial integrity of Syria, and the dignified and safe return of refugees and IDPs. The report also calls on the Security Council to allocate a significant amount of money for clearing mines left over by the Syrian conflict from the United Nations Mine Action Service, particularly in areas prepared to carry out this task with transparency and integrity.
The report also recommends that the international community should take steps at the national and regional levels to form alliances to support the Syrian people, to protect them from the daily killing, and to lift the siege, as well as to increase support for relief efforts. In addition, the report recommends that the international community should stop any forcible return of Syrian refugees, since the situation in Syria continues to be extremely unsafe, and should put pressure to achieve a political transition that would ensure the automatic return of millions of refugees.
The report also calls on the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria to call for rapid implementation of democratic political change that restores victims’ rights and embodies the principles of transitional justice, and to clearly assign responsibility to the party responsible for the death of the political process, as well as to disclose to the Syrian people the timing of the end of the political transition process, in addition to providing a set of additional recommendations.