Killings are Still a Daily Occurrence in Syria, With the Country Still One of the World’s Worst in Terms of Bloodshed
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 55 civilians were killed in Syria, in September 2023, including 12 children, 10 women, and one individual who died due to torture. The report stresses that killings continue to be a daily occurrence in Syria with the country still one of the world’s worst in terms of bloodshed.
The 22-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 September 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 its victims’ families, 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 55 civilians, including 12 children and 10 women (adult female) at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria in September 2023. Of this total, the Syrian regime was responsible for the killing of 14 civilians, including nine children and two women while Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed 11 civilians, including two children and six women. Furthermore, all armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA) killed one civilian. The remaining 29 civilians killed, including one child and two women, were killed by other parties. The report also notes that one massacre took place in September at the hands of Syrian regime forces, in which five children were killed.
As the report further reveals, Deir Ez-Zour saw the most deaths this month, accounting for approximately 33 percent of the total, followed by Daraa governorate with 31 percent, and then Aleppo with 22 percent.
The report also reveals that three civilians were killed by landmine explosions across Syria during September, bringing the total number of victims killed by landmines since the beginning of 2023 to 99 civilians, including 24 children and eight women.
Furthermore, the report notes that SNHR documented the deaths of two individuals due to torture in September. 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.
The report also sheds light on the tragedy caused by Cyclone Daniel in Libya and the Syrians who died there. In this, the report notes that the violations by the various parties to the conflict, but mainly the Syrian regime, have led to the forced displacement of nearly half of all Syrians, who have either been displaced internally or sought asylum in many countries worldwide, including Libya which was hit on September 10 by Cyclone Daniel. SNHR documented the death of 67 Syrians in the floods unleashed by the cyclone in Derna city, including women and children, as well as revealing that dozens of others were declared missing.
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 more 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 on the regime’s part, showing that it is 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 SNHR’s appeal to 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.