Fifteen Percent of All August’s Victims Died on Migration Routes
Press release: (Download the full report below)
The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) revealed in its latest monthly report, released today, that 97 civilians were killed in Syria, in August 2023, including 22 children, three women, and 10 individuals who died due to torture. The report notes that 15 percent of all August’s victims died on migration routes.
The 21-page report provides details on the death toll of victims documented as having been killed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in August 2023, particularly focusing on the most notable deaths that occurred during this period. The report also sheds light on SNHR’s work concerning the issue of extrajudicial killing.
The report draws upon the information gathered from our constant daily monitoring of news and developments, through SNHR’s extensive network of relations with various sources, in addition to our analysis of numerous photographs and videos.
The report reveals that the Syrian regime has failed to register the deaths of any of the hundreds of thousands of citizens it has killed since March 2011 in the civil registry’s death records, adding that the regime exerts absolute control over the issuing 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 notes that the vast majority of victims’ families are unable to obtain death certificates from the regime, for fear of linking their names to those of individuals detained by the regime and killed under torture, since this would mean that these family members were dissidents who opposed the regime, or that their loved ones would be registered as ‘terrorists’ if they are wanted by the regime’s security services; additionally, many victims’ families have been forcibly displaced outside the areas controlled by the regime.
The report additionally 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 at 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 the 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 for the registration of death cases, increasing the security services’ intrusion into these legal procedures.
The report documents the killing of 97 civilians, including 22 children and three women (adult female) at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria in August 2023. Of this total, the Syrian regime was responsible for the killing of 17 civilians, including five children while Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed 15 civilians, including one woman, and one civilian was killed by international coalition forces. Furthermore, all armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA) killed three civilians, while Russian forces killed five civilians, including two children and one woman. Additionally, four civilians, including one child and one woman were killed by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The remaining 52 civilians killed, including 14 children, were killed by other parties. The report also notes that one media worker was killed at the hands of other parties in August.
As the report reveals, Daraa governorate saw the highest number of victims this month, accounting for approximately 24 percent of all victims killed in August, followed by Deir Ez-Zour governorate with approximately 21 percent, then Aleppo with 17 percent.
The report further reveals that five civilians – one man and four children – were killed by landmine explosions across Syria during August, bringing the total number of victims killed by landmines since the beginning of 2023 to 96 civilians, including 24 children and eight women.
Furthermore, the report notes that SNHR documented the deaths of 10 individuals due to torture at the hands of Syrian regime forces in August. Syrian regime forces are responsible for the deaths of approximately 45 percent of all victims who died due to torture at the hands of all the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria since the beginning of 2023. August saw the highest monthly number of victims documented as dying due to torture so far this year, accounting for approximately 30 percent of all 2023’s victims to date.
As the report further reveals, the evidence collected by SNHR indicates that some of the attacks documented in the report were deliberately directed against civilians and civilian objects. These attacks, along with indiscriminate bombardment, also 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 also notes, the use of remote bombardment 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 additionally calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine (R2P) after all political channels have proved fruitless throughout all the agreements reached, as well as 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 these lethal munitions 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 in any such investigations, 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 reiterates its call 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.