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SNHR’s Eighth Annual Report on the Most Notable Violations by Russian Forces Since the Launch of Russia’s Military Intervention in Syria on September 30, 2015

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6,954 Civilians Killed, Including 2,046 Children, and 1,246 Attacks on Vital Civilian Facilities at the Hands of Russian Forces

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Press release: (Download the full report below)

The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released its eighth annual report on the most notable violations by Russian forces since the launch of Russia’s military intervention on September 30, 2015. In the latest report, the group reveals that Russian forces have killed 6,954 civilians to date in Syria, including 2,046 children, and carried out 1,246 attacks on vital civilian facilities.

The 26-page report notes that, Russia has played an instrumental role in obstructing the will of the Syrian people since the early days of the popular uprising. In its attempts to justify its position, behavior, and support of the Assad regime, Moscow has given different, and sometimes contradictory, supposed pretexts. Moreover, over the course of the popular uprising in Syria, Russia has consistently shielded the Syrian regime, as well as supporting it logistically, politically, economically, and militarily. In the political sphere, Russia has provided support through blocking any international condemnation of the Syrian regime’s actions at the UN Security Council, which has been effectively crippled, preventing it from taking any meaningful action in relation to the Syrian regime’s crimes against humanity, thanks to Russia’s using its veto powers on 18 separate occasions – four times before the launch of its military intervention and 14 times since. The report adds that Russia has also voted against all resolutions condemning the Syrian regime’s vicious and brutal attacks on any opposition at all on 21 occasions during UN Human Rights Council sessions. Even more damningly, Russia has mobilized allied or subservient states, including Algeria, Venezuela and Cuba, to do the same.

In the words of Fadel Abdul Ghany, SNHR Executive Director:
“Every year, we reiterate our human rights position, namely that Russia’s intervention in Syria is unlawful because it is based on a request by an illegitimate regime that claimed power through fire and iron, rather than through a constitution and legitimate elections. In addition to this, Russian forces chose to intervene in support of a regime that was and is engaged in perpetrating crimes against humanity, before even mentioning the war crimes and crimes against humanity which Russia itself has committed in Syria. All these facts render Russia’s presence in Syria unlawful. Russia must pay restitution to the families of the victim it has killed and rebuild the vital facilities and homes it has destroyed.”

The report provides an updated breakdown of the most notable violations of human rights committed by Russian forces since the launch of the military intervention up until September 30, 2023. In assigning culpability to Russia in certain attacks, the report explains, SNHR draws upon a wide range of scrupulously cross-checked information, statements by Russian officials, and a large number of first-hand accounts.

The report further notes that, as SNHR’s database attests, Russian forces in Syria have killed 6,954 civilians, including 2,046 children and 978 women (adult female), and committed no fewer than 360 massacres. Analysis of the data shows that the intervention’s first year was the bloodiest (with about 52 percent of all victims killed by Russia killed in the intervention’s first year), while Aleppo governorate saw the most victims (around 41 percent) followed by Idlib (38 percent).

Furthermore, the report documents that Russian forces killed 70 medical personnel, including 12 women, mostly in Aleppo governorate, with the highest proportion of these victims also killed in the first year of the intervention, 44 Civil Defense Personnel, half of whom were killed in Idlib governorate where the highest death toll was documented, accounting for 35 percent of all Civil Defense personnel killed in the first year of the intervention, and 24 media workers, all of whom were killed in the governorates of Aleppo and Idlib.

As the report further reveals, Russia has carried out no fewer than 1,246 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including 223 schools, 207 medical facilities, and 61 markets, since the launch of its military intervention. As the graphs included in the report show, the intervention’s first year saw 452 attacks on vital civilian facilities by Russian forces, with Idlib being subjected to the largest number of attacks, 629 in all, accounting for 51 percent of the total.

Furthermore, the report reveals that Russian forces have carried out no fewer than 237 cluster munition attacks and no fewer than 125 attacks using incendiary since the launch of Russia’s military intervention on September 30, 2015.
The report stresses that the ferocious level of violence shown in Russia’s attacks has played a major role in displacement movements in Syria, with Russian attacks, in parallel with those of the Syrian-Iranian alliance, leading to the displacement of approximately 4.8 million people, most of whom have been displaced more than once.

The report further stresses that despite all these well-documented crimes perpetrated by its forces, Russian authorities continue to this day to deny carrying out any attacks against civilians in Syria. Meanwhile, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, repeatedly claims that Russia’s intervention is lawful because it took place at the request of the Syrian regime and supposedly for the purpose of combating ISIS. Mr. Lavrov asserts that his country’s government is complying with the rules of international humanitarian law, while apparently completely ignoring the fact that Russia has never launched even one investigation into the confirmed information of Russian involvement in numerous violations through its attacks, which qualify as war crimes according to many UN reports, as well as international and local reports.

The report concludes by reiterating that the Russian regime has been involved since the start in supporting the Syrian regime, which has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people, by providing it with weapons, military expertise, and direct military intervention on the side of the regime. The report further notes that Russia has frequently used its right to veto despite becoming a direct party to the Syrian conflict, which is a blatant violation of the Charter of the United Nations. All of Russia’s vetoes have been employed by the Syrian regime to enjoy impunity, the report adds, further noting that the Russian authorities have not conducted any serious investigations into any of the attacks included in this report or in previous reports. The Russian leadership, both military and political, bear responsibility for all of these attacks, based on the principle of command responsibility under international humanitarian law.

The report calls on the UN Security Council to refer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and to hold all those involved accountable. It further calls on the international community to increase support for relief efforts, and to endeavor to employ universal jurisdiction for these crimes in fair trials held in national courts to ensure that all perpetrators are held to account, to support the political transition process, and to put pressure on all parties to oblige them to implement the political transition process within no more than six months.

The report additionally recommends that the Commission of Inquiry (COI) should conduct extensive investigations into the incidents included in this report and should clearly hold the Russian forces responsible if sufficient evidence is found of their involvement. It further calls on the European Union to impose economic sanctions on Russia for the crimes against humanity and war crimes it has perpetrated in Syria, as well as making a number of other recommendations.

Download the full report

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