Massive Human Costs on the Road to Freedom and Dignity
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reveals in its report released today, marking the 11th anniversary of the popular uprising for Democracy in Syria, that it has documented the deaths of 228,647 Syrian civilians, including 14,664 by torture, with 151,462 arbitrarily detained/forcibly disappeared, and nearly 14 million others displaced, indicating the massive human costs on the road to freedom and dignity.
The 35-page report notes that the demands of the popular uprising which broke out against the Syrian regime in March 2011 focused on the people’s right to express opinion freely, to ensure the rotation of power, and to have their human dignity respected, all of which are fundamental human rights principles, without which no decent society can survive. Despite this, however, the Syrian regime confronted the peaceful demonstrations with live bullets and massive campaigns of arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance, which lasted for many months. The report adds that the popular uprising subsequently developed into an internal armed conflict, in which many of the world’s countries intervened. Despite the passage of time since those early days, however, the root of the issue in Syria remains the same, namely the Syrian people’s popular demands for the fundamental right to freely and democratically elect their own leaders, and be free of the tyrannical despotic rule of a hereditary dictatorship that treats the populace like livestock on its ‘family farm’, to enjoy their fundamental rights, to own their wealth, and to be able to hold their government accountable.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“Over eleven years, the Syrian people have made enormous sacrifices in order to rescue their state from monocracy and dictatorship and to restore it so that it belongs to all the people, who can choose their own rulers with democracy and dignity. The Syrian regime and its Iranian and Russian allies bear the primary responsibility for obstructing the democratic transition and perpetuating tyranny, but the West also did not make sufficient efforts to protect the Syrian people and help them achieve the transition towards democracy. After making so many immense sacrifices, Syrians cannot accept anything less than holding the perpetrators of violations accountable and fulfilling their just demands.”
The report recalls the staggeringly immense human cost that Syrians have paid in their struggle to attain freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, and outlines the record of the most notable violations that the Syrian people and state have been subjected to as a result of the continuation of the internal armed conflict, and the international community’s abject failure to resolve the Syrian conflict and achieve a political transition. The report notes that the United Nations Security Council has issued 27 resolutions related to the Syrian issue, none of which have been implemented, including those concerning the issue of detainees and chemical weapons. The report also stresses that the Syrian regime continues to maintain weapons of mass destruction up to the current date.
The report documents the deaths of at least 228,647 civilians, including 29,741 children and 16,228 women (adult female), at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and March 2022, of whom 200,367, including 22,941 children and 11,952 women, were killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while Russian forces killed 6,928, including 2,042 children and 977 women, ISIS killed 5,043, including 958 children and 587 women. Meanwhile, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed 508, including 71 children and 77 women, while the Turkistan Islamic Party killed four civilians. As the report further documents, all Armed Opposition factions/Syrian National Army killed 4,189 civilians, including 998 children and 882 women, while Syrian Democratic Forces killed 1,348 civilians, including 238 children and 165 women. The report also documents the deaths of 3,048 civilians, including 925 children and 658 women, at the hands of the US-led Coalition forces, and the deaths of 7,212 civilians, including 1,568 children and 930 women, at the hands of other parties. The report provides the cumulative records of the death toll and the distribution of the death toll over the past 11 years; analysis of the data shows that 91% of all civilian deaths were killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces and their allies, and that approximately 56% of the civilian death toll was documented in the second and third years of the outbreak of the popular uprising (from March 2012 to March 2014). The report also reveals that nearly 52% of the civilian death toll was documented in the governorates of Damascus Suburbs, Aleppo, and Homs.
As the report adds, among the victims were 869 medical personnel, about 84% of whom were killed by Syrian-Russian alliance forces. The report also documents the deaths of 711 media workers since March 2011, about 78% of whom were killed by Syrian regime forces.
The report reveals that at least 151,462 individuals, including 5,093 children and 9,774 women (adult female) arrested by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces since March 2011 are still detained or forcibly disappeared by them as of March 2022, with 132,667 of these individuals, including 6,358 children and 8,096 women, detained by Syrian regime forces, and another 8,648, including 319 children and 255 women, detained by ISIS, while 2,336, including 46 children and 44 women, are held by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, and 3,783, including 361 children and 857 women, by all Armed Opposition factions/Syrian National Army, in addition to another 4,028, including 709 children and 522 women, detained by Syrian Democratic Forces. The report provides charts that show the cumulative indicator of this record and its distribution over the years since March 2011, in addition to the distribution of the record of persons still detained or forcibly disappeared since March 2011 distributed according to the governorate where the arrests took place. The data analysis shows that the first three years of the popular uprising for democracy witnessed the highest number of arrests among those still detained or forcibly disappeared. Damascus governorate leads all other governorates in terms of the numbers of those still arrested/detained or forcibly disappeared, accounting for approximately 19% of the total, followed by Aleppo governorate with approximately 15%.
Since March 2011, the report reveals, SNHR has documented the deaths due to torture of at least 14,664 individuals, including 181 children and 93 women (adult female), at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, of whom 14,449, including 174 children and 74 women, were killed under torture at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while 32, including one child and 14 women, were killed by ISIS, and 29, including two children, were killed at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham. The report also documents the deaths due to torture of 50 individuals, including one child and two women, at the hands of all Armed Opposition factions/Syrian National Army, and 79, including one child and two women, at the hands of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, while 25, including two children and one woman died, at the hands of other parties.
The report also provides the record of the deployment of four types of weapons, namely barrel bombs, chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons, adding that the regime’s helicopter and fixed-wing warplanes have dropped at least 81,916 barrel bombs since these weapons’ first documented use on July 18, 2012, causing the deaths of 11,087 civilians, including 1,821 children and 1,780 women.
The report further documents at least 222 chemical attacks in Syria since the first documented use of this weapon in December 2012, distributed between 217 chemical attacks carried out by Syrian regime forces, and five chemical attacks carried out by ISIS. These attacks resulted in the deaths of 1,510 individuals, of whom 205 were children and 260 were women (adult female), with all of these victims killed in attacks carried out by the Syrian regime. These attacks also caused injuries to 11,212 individuals, including 11,080 individuals injured in attacks carried out by the Syrian regime, and 132 individuals injured in attacks carried out by ISIS. As the report adds, the Syrian regime still possesses chemical weapons that have not been declared, and the report fears that the regime will repeat their use against the Syrian people.
With regard to cluster munitions, the report notes that the Syrian regime and its Russian ally have used these munitions extensively, as it has documented 495 attacks in Syria since the first documented use of these munitions in July 2012, 250 of which were at the hands of the Syrian regime forces and 237 were at the hands of the Russian forces, in addition to eight Russian/Syrian attacks. As the report reveals, these attacks have resulted in the deaths of 1,042 civilians, including 389 children and 217 women (adult female).
The report also documents at least 171 attacks using incendiary weapons on civilian residential areas since March 2011, 41 of which were at the hands of Syrian regime forces, 125 attacks at the hands of Russian forces, and five attacks by US-led Coalition forces.
As the report further notes, all the perpetrator parties have targeted many vital facilities, with these attacks not being limited to ‘only’ bombing these facilities one or more times, but also turning dozens of these vital facilities into military barracks or detention centers in the areas under the various parties’ control, making them vulnerable to being targeted by other parties to the conflict. Since March 2011, the report documents at least 869 attacks on medical facilities and 1,407 attacks on places of worship. The report also records that 1,597 schools were damaged, some of which were subjected to more than one attack. The report adds that the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance is responsible for nearly 86% of the total record of these incidents.
The report reveals that more than half of the Syrian people are now displaced and refugees, pointing to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) estimates, which indicate that nearly 13.4 million Syrians have been either internally displaced or have become refugees since March 2011. The report stresses that Syria is neither safe for its residents nor for the return of refugees, as the returning refugees are exposed to the same types of violations suffered by the population living in Syria, with the main reason for this being the absence of any rule of law, the dominance of oppression and tyranny and the concentration of powers in the hands of the all-powerful regime. In a related context, from the beginning of 2014 until March 2022, the report documents at least 2,346 cases of arbitrary arrest, including 249 children and 194 women (adult female), against refugees who returned from asylum or residence countries to their areas of residence in Syria. All of those were arbitrarily arrested by Syrian regime forces. The report also records the arrest of at least 907 IDPs who returned to areas controlled by the Syrian regime, including 22 children and 17 women.
As the report reveals, the last two years have witnessed a number of attempts to rehabilitate the Syrian regime politically. Russia and its ally Algeria have led these attempts. At the request of Russia, Algeria made constant efforts to restore the Syrian regime to the Arab League. The report points out that these attempts were not limited to countries, but extended to international organizations.
The report concludes that all parties to the conflict in Syria have violated both international humanitarian law and international human rights law, with the Syrian regime and its allies being the perpetrators of by far the largest number of violations. The report stresses that Syrian regime forces have perpetrated various violations that amount to crimes against humanity, ranging from extrajudicial killing to torture, forced displacement, and others, with all these crimes being perpetrated in a systematic and widespread manner at the same time. In addition, Syrian regime forces have committed war crimes through indiscriminate bombardment and the destruction of buildings and facilities.
The report adds that Russian forces have violated Security Council Resolution No. 2139, as well as Resolution No. 2254, through indiscriminate bombardment. Additionally, Russian forces have violated many rules of international humanitarian law, committing dozens of violations that amount to war crimes.
The report recommends that the 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 11 years, many of which constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The report calls on the UN Security Council and the United Nations to take action under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to protect detainees from certain death inside detention centers, to put an end to the pandemic of enforced disappearance that continues to plague Syria, to act to end torture and deaths due to torture inside Syrian regime detention centers and to disclose the fate of the nearly 102,000 persons forcibly disappeared in Syria, 85 percent of them by the Syrian regime.
The report also calls on the UN Security Council and the United Nations to refer the Syrian issue from the Security Council to the United Nations General Assembly, to implement the ‘Uniting for Peace’ principle, to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court, to hold all those involved in perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes accountable, and 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 calls on the international community to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court or to quickly establish a tribunal dedicated to trying crimes against humanity and war crimes to end the cycle of impunity that has now spanned more than a decade in Syria and to expand political and economic sanctions against the Russian regime for committing war crimes in Syria, for continuing to violate sanctions imposed against the Syrian regime, and for assisting it in breaching UN Security Council resolutions.
The report also calls on the international community to put real pressure on Russia and Iran and to categorize them as key partners in the violations committed in Syria.
The report recommends that the international community should stop any forcible return of Syrian refugees, since the situation in Syria continues to be 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 League of Arab States to absolutely reject any possibility of the Syrian regime’s return to the Arab League, in addition to making several more recommendations.