UN Aid Is Essential for Millions of Syrians Displaced by Russia and the Syrian Regime, and the Russian Veto Banning Aid Is Arbitrary and Illegal
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 May 2022 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that the UN aid is essential for millions of Syrians displaced by Russia and the Syrian regime, adding that the Russian veto banning aid is arbitrary and illegal.
The 22-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in May 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 78 civilians, including 14 children and 11 women (adult female), in May 2022, with the highest percentage of killings being carried out at the hands of other parties. Among the victims were eight individuals who died due to torture, in addition to one massacre committed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report documents at least 147 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention in May 2022 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including 13 children and four women (adult female), with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian regime forces in the governorates of Damascus Suburbs, Daraa, then Aleppo.
The report documents at least seven attacks on vital civilian facilities in May 2022, one of which was carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces, one at the hands of Russian forces, two at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and three at the hands of other parties. Among these attacks, SNHR documented one on an educational facility.
As the report reveals, the month of May saw a continuation of Syrian regime forces’ ground attacks and artillery shelling on northwest Syria, though at a lower rate than previous months this year. This shelling was concentrated particularly on the villages and towns in the Jabal al Zaweya area close to the line of contact with Armed Opposition factions in the southern suburbs of Idlib. Elsewhere, regime artillery shelling also targeted the towns of the western suburbs of Aleppo and the western suburbs of Hama. The report reveals that armed individuals, accompanied by members of the Syrian regime’s military intelligence service, broke into a public swimming pool in al Mqwas neighborhood east of Suwaida city on May 28, claiming that the raid was being carried out in search of individuals accused of drug smuggling. The gunmen opened fire on civilians there. As a result of the raid, widespread protests broke out in the neighborhood, leading to a shootout between Syrian regime forces and local gunmen. These incidents resulted in the deaths of four civilians. On the night of the same day, meanwhile, regime forces fired mortar shells at the neighborhood, damaging buildings there, which led to the displacement of residents the next day.
The report adds that May saw an increase in the frequency of Russian overflights and air attacks on northwest Syria compared to previous months this year, especially in the first half of the month. The report also records that Syrian Democratic Forces continued to launch ground attacks on the areas of the northwestern and eastern Aleppo suburbs in May. The report also records that on May 13, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham artillery forces bombed Nubl town in the western suburbs of Aleppo governorate, which is under the control of Syrian regime forces, killing one child.
In terms of bombings, the report documents the explosion of improvised explosive devices in the governorates of Daraa, Aleppo, Raqqa, and Hasaka.
The report notes that May saw continuing civilian deaths due to explosions caused by landmines in various governorates and regions of Syria, with these incidents being concentrated especially in the governorates of Hama, Daraa, and Raqqa, and with most of the landmine victims this month being children. SNHR documented the deaths of nine civilians, including six children and one woman, resulting from landmine explosions in May, bringing the total death toll caused by these munitions since the beginning of 2022 to 60 civilians, including 30 children and five women.
The report notes that the living and economic conditions in all regions of Syria continue to deteriorate drastically and constantly at all levels. The areas under the control of Syrian regime forces witnessed a continuation of the steep price increases for fuel and most food and other grocery items, amid a scarcity of services, especially in supplies of electricity and water. In northwestern Syria, civilians continued to suffer from the high prices of consumer goods, in light of the almost total lack of purchasing power of those living in the region, due to the spread of unemployment and high poverty rates. As for northeastern Syria, the economic situation in this region is no different to the other Syrian regions, with these areas still suffering from the bread supply crisis due to the scarcity and poor quality of flour reaching local bakeries.
In regard to asylum, displacement and forced displacement, the massive suffering of IDPs in northwest Syria has continued, especially in light of the deteriorating economic conditions and the increase of the level of needs, which has reaching record amounts with the reduction in external support required to cover those needs, including the health sector. In al Hawl Camp in the Hasaka suburbs, the camp residents are still suffering from the deteriorating living and security conditions. In al Rukban camp on the Syrian-Jordanian border, the report notes that the Syrian regime continues to practice a policy of siege on the camp and prevents food supplies from reaching it.
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.