The International Community Must Isolate the Syrian Regime, a Perpetrator of Crimes against Humanity, and Stop Attempts to Normalize Relations with It
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 March 2022 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that the international community must isolate the Syrian regime, a perpetrator of crimes against humanity, and stop attempts to normalize relations with it.
The 33-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in March 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 67 civilians, including 20 children, three women (adult female), and one medical worker, in March 2022, 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 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report documents at least 173 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention in March 2022 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including four children and five women (adult female), with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian regime forces in the governorates of Damascus Suburbs then Daraa.
The report documents at least nine attacks on vital civilian facilities in March 2022, three of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces, two at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and four at the hands of other parties. Among these attacks, SNHR documented one on an educational facility, and three on medical facilities
As the report reveals, March saw the continuation of the military campaign initially launched by Syrian-Russian alliance forces in the Idlib region in northwest Syria in mid-2021, although the frequency of attacks this month was the lowest since the start of the campaign. March witnessed a decrease in the frequency of Russian overflights in northwestern Syria compared to previous months since the beginning of this campaign.
The report adds that Syrian Democratic Forces continued to launch ground attacks on the areas of the northwestern and eastern Aleppo suburbs throughout March, especially on Izaz city.
In terms of bombings, the report documents documented the explosion of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the governorates of Raqqa and Hasaka, which caused damage to vital civilian facilities.
The report notes that March saw continuing civilian deaths due to explosions caused by landmines and munitions remnants in various governorates and regions of Syria, being concentrated especially in the governorates of Aleppo and Deir Ez-Zour, as well as in the governorates of Raqqa, Hama, Daraa, and Hasaka; most of the victims were children. SNHR documented the deaths of 14 civilians, including 12 children and one woman, resulting from landmine explosions in March, bringing the total death toll since the beginning of 2022 to 38 civilians, including 20 children and two women. The report adds that March witnessed killings of civilians in various governorates, mostly in Daraa governorate, by gunmen whom SNHR has been unable to identify.
The report notes that the living and economic situation in all regions of Syria continues to deteriorate constantly at all levels. The Syrian pound has witnessed a sharp decline in its value against the US dollar, which contributed to increasing the suffering of civilians in the areas under the control of Syrian regime forces.
In northwestern Syria, the report notes that the suffering of residents in the region has increased further due to the depreciation of the Turkish lira – used for trading there – against the dollar, in light of the spread of unemployment in general and the lack of job opportunities and low wages for workers.
As the report reveals, the areas controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces are still witnessing rises in the prices of basic foodstuffs, especially bread.
In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health officially announced 1,113 cases of COVID-19 infection and 65 deaths in March. The report adds that more infections and deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in March in northwestern Syria, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing the documentation of 5,860 infections and 58 deaths related to COVID-19 as of March 30. As for northeastern Syria, the Self-Management’s Health Authority in northern and eastern Syria announced that it had documented a total of 165 cases of infection and 18 deaths in March.
In regard to asylum, displacement and forced displacement, the northwestern region of Syria saw heavy winds and a severe storm during the first days of March that blew down, severely damaged or destroyed a number of tents. The area also witnessed snowfall on March 13, which increased the already immense suffering of IDPs in the camps in light of the shortage and high prices of heating materials. The report also records fires continuing to outbreak in the IDP camps in the northern suburbs of Idlib due to improper use of heaters. As for the camps of northeastern Syria, the situation is still catastrophic, most notably in al Hawl Camp in the suburbs of Hasaka, which continues to witness killings and raids by Syrian Democratic Forces. In March, the camp witnessed two fires. The report adds that the prices of basic foodstuffs in al Rukban camp witnessed a sharp increase and many basic staple goods have disappeared from the camp’s shops.
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.