55 Civilian Deaths Documented in December 2022, including Nine Children, Two Women, and Three Victims who Died due to Torture
Press release: (Download the full report below)
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced in its latest report, released today, that 1,057 civilians were killed in Syria, in 2022, including 251 children, 94 women, and 133 victims who died due to torture, noting that bloodshed continues in Syria, with 55 civilians killed in December, 20222, including nine children, two women, and three victims who died due to torture.
The 30-page report notes that the crime of killing has been committed in a widespread and systemic manner primarily by Syrian regime forces and pro-regime militias. The situation in Syria grew more complex over the past decade, with new parties emerging in the Syrian conflict. The report explains that SNHR has worked since 2011 on developing and maintaining complex programs to archive and categorize the victims’ data, which the team collects and verifies, enabling SNHR to catalogue the victims according to their gender, age, the date and place of death, governorate of origin, and perpetrator party, and to make comparisons between these parties. Furthermore, such technologies enabled SNHR to determine which governorates have lost most people. It should also be noted that the report distributes victims according to the place where they died, rather than their governorate of origin.
This report documents the death toll of victims whose deaths were documented as taking place at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in 2022, including the month of December. The report sheds light particularly on children and women victims, victims who died due to torture, and victims among medical personnel, media personnel, and civil defense personnel.
As the report clarifies, the death toll outlined in the report includes extrajudicial killings by the controlling forces which occurred as a violation of either international human rights law or international humanitarian law or both, but does not include cases of natural deaths or those which occurred due to disputes between members of society or other such issues.
The report includes a distribution of the death toll by the perpetrator party. In this context, the report draws upon constant daily monitoring of news and developments by SNHR’s team, and on information from our extensive network of various sources, as well as analyzing a wide range of photos and video footage.
Moreover the report stresses that the killing of civilians in Syria has continued for the 12th consecutive year, as it has done continuously since the initial outbreak of the popular uprising for democracy in Syria in March 2011, resulting in casualty numbers that are among the highest worldwide; this underlines the fact that Syria is still the most dangerous nation in the world for civilians, and remains an exceptionally insecure and perilous environment wholly unsuitable for the return of refugees.
The report also underlines the Syrian regime’s failure to register the deaths of any of the hundreds of thousands of citizens it has killed since March 2011 in the death records of the civil registry. It explains that the regime exerts absolute control over the issuance of death certificates, which are not made available to any of the families of its victims, including the missing and forcibly disappeared, whether these victims were killed at the hands of the Syrian regime or by other affiliated parties. The Syrian regime only allows death certificates to be issued for those who meet the narrow criteria set by the regime and its security services. The report further reveals that the vast majority of victims’ families are unable to obtain death certificates from the Syrian regime, for fear of linking their name to that of a person who was detained by the regime and killed under torture, meaning that he or she was a dissident who opposed the regime, or of their loved one being registered as a ‘terrorist’ if they are wanted by the security services; additionally, many victims’ families have been forcibly displaced outside the areas controlled by the regime.
The report further reveals that on August 10, 2022, the regime government’s Minister of Justice issued Circular No. 22 specifying the procedures for the conduct of proceedings related to registering deaths within Sharia courts. The circular included new conditions stipulating that five items of evidence must be submitted to and approved by the relevant judges in proceedings related to registration of deaths. It also requires that all relevant courts involved in death registration cases comply with the circular’s content. The circular also imposed security clearance conditions on judicial authorities to register death cases, increasing the security services’ intrusion into these legal procedures.
The report documents the killing of 1,057 civilians, including 251 children and 94 women (adult female), at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling parties in Syria in 2022. Of these, the Syrian regime was responsible for the killing of 196 civilians, including 30 children and seven women, while Russian forces killed 17 civilians, including eight children and one woman, and ISIS killed nine civilians. The report also records that 11 civilians, including two children and two women, were killed by Hay’at Tahrri al-Sham (HTS), while all armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA) killed 24 civilians, including seven children and five women. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces killed 76 civilians, including 11 children and six women. Finally, a total of 724 civilians, including 193 children and 73 women were killed by other parties.
The report reveals that Aleppo governorate saw the highest death toll of victims documented killed in 2022, accounting for approximately 21 percent of the total monthly death toll throughout the year, with most of Aleppo’s victims killed by other parties; this was followed by Daraa, which accounted for approximately 19 percent of the total, then Idlib with approximately 14 percent. Meanwhile, the report recorded more killings by landmines across Syria in 2022, with a total of 128 civilians, including 69 children and nine women, documented killed by landmines in 2022.
As the report further relates, SNHR’s Victim Documentation Team documented the killing of 55 civilians, including nine children and two women, in December 2022. Of the 55 civilians killed, 11, including four children, were killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while HTS and all armed opposition factions/SNA were responsible for one death each. The report also records that the SDF killed five civilians in December, while 37 others, including five children and two women, were killed at the hands of other parties.
Furthermore, the report reveals that SNHR documented the killing of six medical at the hands of other parties and three media personnel in 2022, with Syrian regime forces, all armed opposition factions/SNA, and Turkish forces each being responsible for the killing of one media personnel.
On the subject of victims dying due to torture, the report reveals that 133 individuals died due to torture in Syria, in 2022, including one child and one woman. Of those, 115, including one child and one woman, died due to torture at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while one individual died due to torture at the hands of HTS, three at the hands of all armed opposition factions/SNA, and 14 at the hands of the SDF. The report additionally documents the deaths of three victims due to torture in December 2022 with two of these dying at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while the third died at the hands of all armed opposition factions/SNA.
The report further reveals that a total of 12 massacres were documented in 2022, with SNHR using the term ‘massacre’ to denote an incident where at least five peaceful individuals are killed. In line with this definition, the report records two massacres by Syrian regime forces in 2022, two by Russian forces, one by the SDF, one by ISIS, and six by other parties.
As the report explains, the evidence collected by SNHR indicates that many of the attacks documented in the report were deliberately directed against civilians and civilian objects. These attacks, along with indiscriminate bombardment, resulted in the destruction of vital facilities and buildings. The report additionally notes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.
As the report further notes, the use of remote bombings to target densely populated areas reflects a criminal mindset intent on deliberately inflicting the greatest possible number of deaths, which is a clear contravention of international human rights law and a flagrant violation of the Geneva VI Convention, Articles 27, 31, and 32.
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 involved in perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes should be held accountable.
The report also 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 persons’ camps, and to follow up with those states that have pledged voluntary contributions.
The report calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine (R2P) after all political channels have proved fruitless throughout all the agreements reached, 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 further recommends that the international community should work to launch projects to create maps revealing the locations of landmines and cluster munitions in all Syrian governorates. This would facilitate the process of clearing them and educating the population about their locations.
The report additionally 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 to provide further evidence and data, as well as calling on the commission to focus on the issue of landmines and cluster munitions in its next report.
The report also stresses that the Syrian regime must stop the indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools, and markets, as well as ending its acts of torture that have caused the deaths of thousands of Syrian citizens in detention centers and comply with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
Lastly, the report calls on all the parties to the conflict to provide detailed maps of the locations where they have planted landmines, especially those present in civilian locations or areas near residential communities, as well as making several additional recommendations.