More Sanctions Must Be Imposed on the Syrian Regime and Its Russian Ally Due to Their Continued Perpetration of Atrocious Violations in Syria
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 February 2022 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that more sanctions must be imposed on the Syrian regime and its Russian ally due to their continued perpetration of atrocious violations in Syria
The 26-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in February 2022, 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 161 civilians, including 28 children, six women (adult female) and one medical worker, in February 2022, with the highest percentage of killings being carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces. Among the victims were 66 individuals who died due to torture, in addition to three massacres committed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report documents at least 203 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention in February 2022 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including 13 children and 11 women (adult female), with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian regime forces in the governorates of Damascus Suburbs, Daraa, then Damascus.
The report documents at least six attacks on vital civilian facilities in February 2022, two of which were carried out at the hands of other parties, while Syrian regime forces, Syrian Democratic Forces, and all Armed Opposition factions/Syrian National Army carried out one attack each.
As the report reveals, February saw the continuation of the military campaign launched by Syrian-Russian alliance forces in Idlib region in northwest Syria since mid-2021, while SNHR also documented a significant decrease in the intensity of Syrian regime forces’ ground attacks in Jabal al Zaweya area with the attacks during this period being limited to attacks targeting the front lines in the vicinity of the southern villages in Jabal al Zaweya. The villages of the northern suburbs of Idlib were also subjected to several ground attacks. The areas of the northwestern and eastern suburbs of Aleppo also saw an escalation in February in the frequency of missile shelling, originating from the areas under the control of Syrian regime forces and the Kurdish Self-Management forces north of Aleppo, targeting the main cities in the area.
The report adds that intermittent clashes using light and medium weapons continued in February between Syrian National Army forces and Syrian Democratic Forces in the villages of the Ein Eisa district in the northern suburbs of Raqqa, which are under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces, with both sides using heavy weapons to bombard each other’s areas.
In terms of bombings, the report documents an escalation in the intensity of bombings using explosive devices in the areas controlled by Syrian National Army forces in the northern and eastern suburbs of Aleppo. The bombings targeted leaders of the Syrian National Army. Ras al Ein city in Hasaka suburbs also witnessed several bombings using explosive devices, as well as in the villages and towns of the eastern suburbs of Deir Ez-Zour.
The report notes that February saw continuing civilian deaths due to explosions caused by landmines and munitions remnants in various governorates and regions of Syria. SNHR documented the deaths of 16 civilians, including five children, resulting from landmine explosions in February, bringing the total death toll since the beginning of 2022 to 20 civilians, including eight children. The report also records killings of civilians in various governorates by gunmen whom SNHR has been unable to identify.
The report notes that the living and economic situation has worsened in all regions of Syria in February. Regarding the prices of various commodities and materials, the markets in Syrian regime-controlled areas witnessed a remarkable increase in prices of all commodities. In terms of medicines, the Syrian regime-controlled areas are still witnessing a crisis in the availability of medicines and a continuous increase in their prices.
In northwestern Syria, the report notes that despite the relative stability in the exchange rate of the Turkish lira, the markets are still witnessing increases in the prices of foodstuffs and supplies, with the prices of some materials having reached record levels that exceed the purchasing power of civilians, in light of the spread of unemployment in general, the lack of job opportunities and low wages for workers. In addition, the areas controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces are also still witnessing increases in the prices of basic foodstuffs, in addition to bread shortages, which exacerbates the deterioration of the already poor living conditions there.
In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, February saw a remarkable increase in documented COVID-19 infections across Syria, seeing the highest monthly number of infections recorded since November 2021. As the report reveals, the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health officially announced 3,173 cases of COVID-19 infection and 86 deaths in February. The report adds that more infections and deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in February in northwestern Syria, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing the documentation of 3,633 infections and 25 deaths related to COVID-19 as of February 27. As for northeastern Syria, the Self-Management’s Health Authority in northern and eastern Syria announced that it had documented a total of 916 cases of infection and 27 deaths in February.
In regard to asylum, displacement and forced displacement, the northwestern region of Syria is still experiencing the catastrophic effects of the rain and snowstorms and bad weather that prevailed in January. The report also records the outbreak of several fires in the IDP camps in the areas of the northern and western suburbs of Idlib and northern suburbs of Aleppo due to the use of heaters and unconventional cooking methods in canvas tents. As for the camps of northeastern Syria, the situation is still catastrophic, most notably in al Hawl Camp in the eastern suburbs of Hasaka
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’ (R2P) 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.