Syrian Regime Forces Commit a Massacre in Qoqfin Village in Rural Idlib, Killing 10 Civilians from the Same Family, Including Seven Children and One Woman
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 72 civilians were killed in Syria, in November 2023, including 14 children and seven women; nine of these victims, one of them a woman, died due to torture.
The 25-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 November 2023, particularly focusing on the most notable deaths and incidents that occurred during this period, including deaths due to torture and the massacres committed by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria in the previous month. 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 contacts and other 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 established 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 with 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 72 civilians, including 14 children and seven women (adult female) at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria in November 2023. Of this total, the Syrian regime was responsible for the killing of 32 civilians, including 10 children and four women while Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed 12 civilians, including two children. The remaining 28 civilians killed, including two children and three women, were killed by other parties. November 2023 also saw the killing of one medical worker and one media worker at the hands of Syrian regime forces. Moreover, the report also notes that one massacre was perpetrated in November by Syrian regime forces, in which 10 civilians, including seven children and one woman, were killed.
As the report further reveals, Deir Ez-Zour governorate accounted for approximately 25 percent of all victims killed in November, the highest number among all the governorates, followed by Idlib governorate with approximately 22 percent, with most of the victims killed in Idlib being killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, followed by Daraa governorate, which accounted for approximately 19 percent of the total.
The report adds that more civilians were killed by landmine explosions across Syria during November, which saw three deaths caused by landmines, including one child and one woman, bringing the total number of victims killed by landmines since the beginning of 2023 to 104 civilians, including 26 children and nine women.
Furthermore, the report notes that, among the 72 victims, SNHR documented the deaths of nine individuals due to torture in November, including one woman, at the hands of Syrian regime forces and the SDF. As such, the report stresses that November saw a significant rise in the number of deaths due to torture, accounting for approximately 20 percent of the total death toll, with most of these victims, one of them a woman, killed at the hands of regime forces. August saw the highest monthly number of deaths due to torture documented to date in 2023, accounting for 22 percent of the total.
The report notes that 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, in clear contravention of international human rights law and flagrantly violating 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 dossier 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 urges all relevant United Nations agencies to make far 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.