Repatriating Syrian Refugees from Their Asylum Countries is Putting Their Life in Danger, Syria is still Unsafe for the Return of Refugees
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights released today its monthly special report, which summarizes the human rights situation in Syria during the previous month, documenting the most prominent human rights violations committed by the parties to the conflict and the dominant forces in Syria in October 2022. It pointed out that Syria is still unsafe for the return of refugees, as the ongoing processes of repatriating Syrian refugees from their asylum countries is putting their lives in danger.
The 27-page report provides details of the most prominent violations documented in October 2022, and of the civilian victims, who were killed by the parties to the conflict and the forces in control during this period, in addition to providing a summary of the arrests/ detentions and enforced disappearances, along with other information. It also sheds light on the attacks on civilian objects which SNHR has been able to document during this period.
In compiling our reports, SNHR relies on continuous monitoring of incidents and news reports and on a wide network of trusted contacts from dozens of diverse sources, in addition to exhaustive analysis of a large number of photos and videos.
In October, the report reveals, SNHR documented the killing of 60 civilians, including 10 children and five women (adult female), most of whom were killed by other parties. Of those, the report documented the killing of one medical personnel, one media worker, and seven individuals who died due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
As the report reveals, October recorded no fewer than 208 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention the arbitrary arrest/detention, including seven children, and five women (adult female) by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria. The majority of these were arrested or detained at the hands of Syrian regime forces in the governorates of Damascus suburbs, Damascus, followed by Daraa.
The report further notes that October witnessed at least nine attacks on vital civilian centers, including five in Aleppo. Two of those attacks targeted educational facilities, while four targeted IDP gatherings/camps. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were responsible for three attacks, out of the nine, more than any other party to the conflict.
The report additionally reveals that, in October, Syrian regime forces continued with their artillery attacks targeting Idlib in northwestern Syria. The bombardment seems to have been concentrated on the villages and towns of Jabal al-Zawiya in the southern suburbs of Idlib governorate and in western Aleppo governorate, and Sahl al-Ghab in western Hama governorate. These areas are all close to the contact lines with armed opposition factions. In addition, a number of towns and villages in the western suburbs of Aleppo and southern suburbs of Idlib, which are distant from contact lines, were the target of land attacks by Syrian regime forces. Further, the report notes that Russian forces continued with their aerial attacks in October. As previously, the attacks took place in the northwestern areas of Syria, where both civilian and military areas were targeted, mostly in the Ariha area of southern Idlib, as well as in villages and towns in the southern and western suburbs of Idlib. On the other hand, the report says that the areas controlled by the Syrian National Army (SNA) in the northern and eastern suburbs of Aleppo were the target of land attacks that involved the use of artillery and guided anti-armor missile by Syrian regime forces and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The attacks were concentrated in the contact lines and the nearby areas.
Also in October, the report documents intensive rounds of infighting among SNA factions in the northern and eastern suburbs of Aleppo, that also involved Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The clashes began following al-Failaq al-Thaleh’s takeover of the strongholds of Ferqat al-Hamza in al-Bab city on October 11. Notably, it was confirmed that Ferqat al-Hamza was involved in the assassination of the media worker Mohammad Abu Ghanoum and his pregnant wife on October 7. HTS, the report adds, took advantage of the infighting to carry out a wide-ranging offensive in the hopes of taking territories from armed opposition factions. Moreover, SDF also continued with their land attacks on the northern and eastern suburbs of Aleppo in October.
The report also records a number of bombings in October. In the governorates of Homs, Daraa, and Hasaka, a number of IEDs were documented. On the other hand, civilian victims were killed in October by landmines across Syria. Those deaths were concentrated in the governorates of Hama, Aleppo, Homs, Idlib, Deir Ez-Zour, and Hasaka. Five civilians were killed by landmines in October, including two children, raising the total death toll of deaths by landmine explosions to 117 civilians, including 61 children and nine women since the start of 2012. In addition, the report notes that assassinations of civilians by gunmen the report has been unable to identify continued in October. These assassinations took place in multiple Syrian governorates, mostly in the governorates of Daraa, Hama, Deir Ez-Zour, Hasaka, and Aleppo.
According the report, Syria’s economic, service, and living conditions continued their ongoing decline throughout October in all regions of Syria, as the Syrian regime-held areas are still suffering from exponential inflation.
In northwestern Syria, on the other hand, civilians are still grappling with the thoroughly worsening economic and living conditions, not the least of which are the price increase on all foodstuffs, basic supplies, and fuel. In northeastern Syria, the report adds, the living situation is also deteriorating, with price increases for food supplies and fuel due to the declining value of the SP. On October 20, a number of demonstrations broke out in al-Sh’aitat area and Nahiyal al-Kasra, lasting for five days. The protests called for improving the living conditions, raising teachers’ wages, and cancelling the decision by the SDF’s Education Commission that banned niqab in the schools within SDF’s areas of control.
As regards the cholera outbreak, the report notes that Syria has recorded 1,097 cases of cholera and 46 deaths according to the latest figures released by the Syrian regime on October 29. Meanwhile, the Early Warning, Alert and Response Network (EWARN) said that 216 cases and four deaths had been recorded as of October 31.
As the report reveals, IDPs in the northwestern region of Syria are still facing grueling living and humanitarian conditions, especially with a worsening economic situation and mounting needs. In Northern Aleppo, the IDP camps were affected by the clashes that pitted HTS and SNA factions against al-Failaq al-Thaleth, another SNA faction. We have documented the displacement of almost 13,000 people from the area, where no fewer than 12 IDP camps were directly affected by the military operations.
Moreover, the report notes that the Syrian regime announced that civilians returned to Ma’aret al-Nu’man city, southern suburbs of Idlib on October 15. However, some residents who returned earlier to the city confirmed the city is still destroyed, and that it was the target of mass lootings, which left it uninhabitable. The residents added that they had to pay a sum of 5,000 and obtain permission from the Political Security branch in Hama before they were allowed to return.
In northeastern Syria, the report adds, IDPs have been grappling with the cholera outbreak there amid a severe shortage of drinking water. Further, the report notes that Australia, Germany, France, and Canada repatriated some of their nationals that were trapped in northeastern Syria.
With respect to refugees, the report notes that a batch of Syrian refugees left Lebanon, returning to Syria as part of the Lebanese government’s plan to return Syrian refugees, which is being carried out in coordination with the Syrian regime. The batch was made of 750 Syrians. The report stresses that the UNHCR is not organizing the ongoing large-scale repatriations.
The report stresses that the evidence collected suggest that attacks have been directed at civilians and civilian objects. The Syrian-Russian alliance forces have committed a large variety of crimes, from extrajudicial killings, to arrests, torture and enforced disappearances. The report notes that these attacks and indiscriminate bombardment by air and ground forces have caused the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, shops and other structures, and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.
The report affirms that the Syrian regime has violated international humanitarian and customary law, and UN Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 2139 and resolution 2042 related to the release of detainees, as well as resolution 2254, all without any accountability.
The report further notes that the continuing indiscriminate and disproportionate shelling carried out by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, with and the group’s indiscriminate killings amounting to war crimes.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to take additional measures after the adoption of Resolution 2254 and stresses the need to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court and to hold accountable all those involved, including the Russian regime, all of whom have been proven to be involved in the commission of war crimes.
The report recommends that the UN Security Council should adopt a resolution on the prohibition of the use of cluster munitions and mines in Syria similar to the existing prohibition of the use of chemical weapons, which should include points on how to dispose of the remnants of these dangerous weapons.
The report also calls on all relevant United Nations agencies to make far greater efforts in humanitarian, food and medical assistance in areas where hostilities had ceased, in camps for internally displaced persons, and in the follow-up of funding from states which had pledged the necessary voluntary contributions.
The report further calls for the application of the principle of the responsibility to protect (R2P), especially after the exhaustion of political steps through all agreements, statements of cessation of hostilities and Astana agreements, stressing the need to resort to Chapter VII and apply the R2P principle, approved by the United Nations General Assembly.
The report additionally recommends that the International Independent Investigation Commission (COI) should open investigations into the incidents contained therein and in previous reports, and confirms the Syrian Network for Human Rights’ readiness to cooperate in any such endeavors and to provide more evidence and details. It also calls for the issue of mines and cluster munitions to be highlighted in the COI’s next report.
The report also calls on the UN Envoy to Syria to condemn the perpetrators of crimes and massacres and those who are mainly responsible for the destruction of the agreements of reducing the escalation and restoring the peace process to its normal form after Russia’s attempts to distort it and to present the Constitutional Committee to the transitional government.
The report also stresses the need for the Syrian regime to cease indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, and the use of prohibited munitions and barrel bombs, and to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
The report further stresses the need for the countries supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces to press the SDF to cease all their violations in all the areas and towns they control. In the report, the SNHR again calls on the Syrian Democratic Forces to immediately stop recruiting children and hold all officers involved accountable and to undertake to return immediately all children arrested for military conscription.
The report recommends that armed opposition factions and the Syrian National Army ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, distinguish between military and civilian targets, and refrain from any indiscriminate attacks.
The report additionally stresses the need for humanitarian organizations to develop urgent operational plans with a view to securing dignified, safe shelter for internally displaced persons; and to provide care facilities and mechanisms such as medical establishments, schools and ambulances with markings from long distances, as well as making a number of other additional recommendations…