HomeReportAnnual ReportsOn the 13th Anniversary of the Start of the Popular Uprising, 231,278...

On the 13th Anniversary of the Start of the Popular Uprising, 231,278 Syrian Civilians Have Been Documented Killed, Including 15,334 due to Torture, 156,757 Have Been Arrested and/or Forcibly Disappeared, While 14 Million Remain Forcibly Displaced


The Heroic Syrian People Who Rose and Confronted the World’s Most Vicious Dictatorial Regime 13 Years Ago Have been Abandoned in Their Quest for a Democratic Political Transition

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Press release: (Download the full report below)

The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced today in a report marking the 13th anniversary of the popular uprising for democracy in Syria that it has documented the deaths of 231,278 Syrian civilians, including 15,334 who died due to torture, in addition to the arbitrary arrest/enforced disappearance of 156,757 others, while roughly 14 million citizens have been displaced. In the report, the group also stresses that the heroic Syrian people who rose and confronted the world’s most vicious dictatorial regime 13 years ago have been abandoned in their quest for a democratic political transition.

As the 78- page report notes, 13 years ago, armed with nothing but their unshakable resolve and extraordinary bravery, the Syrian people set out to transform the Syrian nation from a hereditary dictatorship ruled with iron and fire by one murderous family, to a democracy rooted in the principles of free and fair elections. In their fateful quest, the Syrian people rose up to reclaim their long-denied dignity that had been stolen by the regime’s barbaric security apparatus. Popular protests rapidly swept across Syria, showing the nationwide yearning to take back the country from the savage rule of a decades-old autocratic hereditary dictatorship and its brutal security forces. Against the regime’s massive military power, however, this longing for freedom and human rights was not enough, with the hopeful, joyous chants of the Syrian protesters at these huge demonstrations muted by the barbarism of the regime’s response in the form of live bullets, mass arrest targeting prominent activists leading the demonstrations, and vicious torture that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Indeed, there are still thousands of political prisoners in the regime’s jails who have been forcibly disappeared since 2011.

The Syrian regime’s gross violations, many of them constituting crimes against humanity’ coupled with the abject and absolute failure of the international community, including the UN Security Council, meant that what began as peaceful protests quickly devolved into an internal armed conflict that has had a vast and terrible human and material cost and numerous complexities. All the Arab, regional, and international efforts made so far have failed to resolve the armed conflict in Syria. Despite these hurdles, however, the report asserts the Syrian people’s right to hold those responsible for violations against them accountable, most prominently the ruling regime that has been at the root of their suffering and of the conflict, and, secondly, reiterates that the Syrian people alone have the right to choose how to govern their nation in a free and democratic process, without being subjected to oppression and indignity at the hands of the various forces controlling various parts of Syria today.

As Fadel Abdulghany, SNHR Executive Director, says:

 “This report serves as a testimony to the extraordinary bravery of the Syrian people in their struggle for freedom, dignity, and democracy. On the other hand, it is also a bleak portrait of the ever-continuing suffering and injustice endured by the people of Syria, in addition to exposing the international community’s abject utter failure to save them. All of these points serve to reiterate and emphasize the imperative need to refocus on the Syrian issue and bring about a political resolution in line with Security Council resolution 2254.”

The report stresses the dire losses suffered by Syrians on the individual, societal and state levels, in the face of the hereditary dictatorial regime’s murderous brutality as the people’s quest to join the free, democratic world continues. The report notes that Syria’s regions have seen both gradual and rapid, major changes of control over the past 13 years in accordance with military developments, stressing that the various parties to the conflict and controlling forces have all committed human rights violations in their pursuit of gaining or maintaining military control of certain areas. To that end, the report outlines the toll of most notable human rights violations between March 2011 and March 2024.

The report reveals that no fewer than 231,278 civilians, including 30,193 children and 16,451 women (adult female), were killed at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and March 2024. The Syrian regime was responsible for 201,260 of these deaths, with its victims including 22,039 children and 12,002 women, while Russian forces killed 6,969 civilians, including 2,055 children and 983 women. Meanwhile, ISIS killed 5,056 civilians, including 959 children and 587 women, while Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) killed 538 civilians, including 76 children and 82 women, and the Turkistan Islamic Party killed four civilians. All armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA) were responsible for the deaths of 4,227 civilians, including 1,009 children and 886 women, while Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed 1,491 civilians, including 264 children and 177 women. Additionally, the US-led International Coalition forces killed 3,055 civilians, including 926 children and 658 women, and finally 8,978 civilians, including 1,865 children and 1,076 women, were killed by other parties. The report also includes a running count of the civilian death toll and its distribution by year over the past 13 years. Analysis of the data shows that 91 percent of all victims were killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces and their allies, with roughly 52 percent of all victims being killed in the governorates of Rural Damascus ‘Rif Dimshaq’, Aleppo, and Homs.

As the report further reveals, among the victims were 876 medical personnel, approximately 83 percent of whom were killed by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces, and 717 media workers, approximately 78 percent of whom were killed by Syrian regime forces.

The report also notes that no fewer than 156,757 of the individuals arrested by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria since March 2011 up until March 2024, including 5,235 children and 10,205 women (adult female) are still imprisoned and/or forcibly disappeared. Of these, 136,192 individuals, including 3,696 children and 8,497 women, were arrested by Syrian regime forces, while 8,684 individuals, including 319 children and 255 women, were arrested by ISIS, and 2,587 individuals, including 47 children and 45 women, were arrested by HTS. Furthermore, 4,243 individuals, including 364 children and 879 women, were arrested by all armed opposition factions/SNA, and 5,051 individuals, including 809 children and 529 women, were arrested by the SDF. The report includes graphs showing the running count and distribution of the total arrests by year since March 2011 across all Syrian governorates.

The report also documents the deaths of 15,334 individuals due to torture, including 199 children and 115 women (adult female), at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria. Of these, 15,074 individuals, including 190 children and 95 women, died at the hands of Syrian regime forces, meaning that Syrian regime forces are responsible for 99 percent of all documented deaths due to torture. Meanwhile, 32 individuals, including one child and 14 women, died due to torture at the hands of ISIS, while another 41, including two children and one woman, died due to torture at the hands of HTS, 57 individuals, including one child and two women, died due to torture at the hands of all armed opposition factions/SNA, and 100 individuals, including two children and three women, died due to torture at the hands of the SDF. Finally, 30 individuals, including two children and one woman, died due to torture at the hands of other parties.

The report provides statistics on the use of four types of weapons – barrel bombs, chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons – noting that Syrian regime helicopters and fixed-wing warplanes have dropped no fewer than 81,916 barrel bombs since the first documented use of this weapon on July 18, 2012, resulting in the deaths of 11,087 civilians, including 1,821 children and 1,780 women.

Additionally, the report documents 222 chemical weapons attacks in Syria since the first documented use of these internationally outlawed weapons in December 2012. The Syrian regime was responsible for 217 of these attacks, while the remaining five were carried out by ISIS. A total of 1,514 people, including 214 children and 262 women (adult female), have been killed in CW attacks by Syrian regime forces. A further 11,212 individuals were injured in CW attacks, with 11,080 of this total injured in attacks by the Syrian regime, while the remaining 132 were injured in attacks by ISIS.

On the subject of cluster munitions, the report reveals that the Syrian regime and its ally Russia have used these internationally outlawed munitions heavily. The report records 497 cluster munition attacks since the first documented use of cluster munitions in July 2012. Of these 497 attacks, 252 were carried out by Syrian regime forces, while 237 were carried out by Russian forces, in addition to eight Syrian/Russian attacks. As the report reveals, cluster munition attacks resulted in the deaths of 1,053 civilians, including 394 children and 219 women (adult female).

Finally, the report documents 181 attacks involving the use of incendiary weapons on civilian residential areas, including 51 attacks by Syrian regime forces, and 125 attacks by Russian forces, while the remaining five attacks were carried out by international coalition forces.

As the report further notes, the various parties to the conflict have carried out attacks that resulted in damage to vital facilities. Since March 2011, SNHR has documented no fewer than 897 attacks on medical facilities, and 1,453 attacks on places of worship, in addition to documenting damage to 1,675 schools, some of which were targeted on multiple occasions. The report reveals that Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance forces have been responsible for roughly 86 percent of these attacks.

The report also reveals that more than half of the Syrian population has been forcibly displaced either as IDPs or as refugees, citing statistics from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which estimate that roughly 13.4 million Syrians have been forced to flee internally or seek asylum in other countries since the beginning of the popular uprising for democracy in March 2011.

In the report’s second chapter, a number of ongoing violations that threaten the Syrian people for decades to come are highlighted. One of these categories involves extrajudicial arrests/detentions, enforced disappearance, torture, and executions through summary procedures, which the report describes as an interconnected series of brutal violations that have been perpetrated by the Syrian regime for 13 years. In this context, the report stresses that the 23 amnesty decrees promulgated by the Syrian regime since 2011 have all failed to secure the release of the overwhelming majority of detainees. Moreover, the report stresses that torture in regime detention centers has no time limits or other constraints, with more and more deaths due to torture being recorded even after the ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The report further adds that the specter of enforced disappearance continues to haunt the families of forcibly disappeared persons, raising grave concerns for the lives of about 113,000 Syrian citizens who are still forcibly disappeared at the hands of the parties to the conflict, with the regime being responsible for about 86 percent of all enforced disappearances. The report also sheds light on the abnormal exceptional courts, including the Counterterrorism Court and the Military Field Court; the latter. for example, issued at least 7,872 death sentences and was involved in at least 24,047 enforced disappearances between March 2011 and August 2023

The report also reveals that landmines and cluster munitions remnants are still scattered across wide areas of Syria, posing a lethal threat to citizens’ lives that will last for decades to come. There is also the issue of forced displacement, described by the report as an ongoing tragedy, with Syria continuing to be unsafe for its own inhabitants let alone for returning refugees. In this context, the report stresses that other states restoring relations with the Syrian regime will lead to larger numbers of Syrian refugees worldwide rather than the opposite, while the refoulment of refugees and forced repatriation of asylum seekers constitute violation of international law. In fact, returning refugees are subjected to the same life-threatening violations suffered by local residents in Syria, amid an absence of any legitimate or credible legal environment and the prevalent climate of oppression, despotism, and the centralization of authoritarian rule. There can be no free and dignified return for refugees without the country first realizing a political transition towards a democratic government that respects human rights. Relatedly, from the start of 2014 until March 2024, the report records no fewer than 4,643 arbitrary arrests of refugees returning to their homes in Syria from countries of asylum or residence, including 1,518 people who have subsequently been categorized as forcibly disappeared. Of the 4,643 people arrested, 3,532, including 251 children and 214 women (adult female), were refugees returning from countries of asylum or residence to their original areas of residence in Syria, 97 of whom had been forcibly repatriated from Lebanon, including two children and five women, while the remaining 1,014 arrests involved IDPs who returned from their areas of displacement elsewhere in Syria to regime-held areas.

Additionally, the report notes that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have destroyed vast areas across Syria, uprooting millions of Syrians from their lands and homes towards a traumatic, uncertain fate of forced displacement. Meanwhile, the Syrian regime has been seizing Syrian dissidents’ properties through laws and legislation promulgated since March 2011 in service of one goal, which is to take advantage of the chaotic climate of an internal armed conflict to accelerate the process of seizing the properties of Syrian dissidents. In that context, the report outlines a number of mechanisms through which the regime has employed its quasi-legal arsenal of laws, as well as a deliberate policy of destruction used by the regime to take over homes, lands, and real estate properties.

As the report further reveals, the Syrian regime has been taking advantage of state-issued documents to achieve self-serving objectives and is committing a range of violations against citizens in the process of acquiring official documents, using such processes to fund its war against the Syrian people, with its extortionate passport processing charges being one example. In that, the report pinpoints six main patterns of violations affecting Syrians in the process of acquiring passports.

In the last chapter, the report stresses that the international community has totally and abjectly failed to bring about a resolution to the Syrian conflict and realize a political change. To that end, the report notes that the UN Security Council has miserably failed to implement any of its resolutions on Syria. The report also notes that the perpetuation of a culture of impunity has emboldened the Syrian regime to continue to commit violations against the Syrian people for over 13 years. On a related note, the report tackles the issue of the politicization of the humanitarian assistance file since 2014, reiterating that delivering humanitarian assistance does not require permission from the Security Council, while also stressing that an abundance of evidence has proved that the Syrian regime is stealing the vast majority of relief aid, with those genuinely affected and in desperate need only receiving 10 percent of the total.

As the report further stresses, normalizing relations with the Syrian regime, which is continues to commit crimes against humanity against the Syrian people to this day, constitutes a violation of international law and a desecration of the rights of million victims. The attempts being made by some Arab states, or any other states for that matter, to reestablish any form of relations with the Syrian regime are grievously insulting, first and foremost to those states deciding to take such action, and secondly sends a wrong message to their own peoples that they choose to side with a genocidal regime responsible for crimes against humanity which sits atop the backs and skulls of its victims, which is itself an insult to the dignity of any state doing so, in addition to being a grotesque insult to the regime’s millions of Syrian victims. Such rehabilitation, as the report stresses, also constitutes a violation of international law since it is an act of support for a regime that has committed, and still is committing crimes against humanity against an entire nation of people.

The report concludes by stating that all parties to the conflict in Syria have violated both international humanitarian law and international human rights law, with the Syrian regime and its allies being the perpetrators of by far the largest number of violations. The report stresses that Syrian regime forces have perpetrated various violations on such a scale that they amount to crimes against humanity, ranging from extrajudicial killing to torture, forced displacement, and others, with all these crimes being perpetrated in a simultaneously systematic and widespread manner. In addition, Syrian regime forces have committed war crimes through indiscriminate bombardment and the destruction of buildings and facilities. Since the Syrian regime has failed to uphold its responsibly for protecting the country’s people from crimes against humanity and war crimes, the report affirms, it is the responsibility of the international community to intervene to t take protective measure collectively and decisively.

The report further notes that Russian forces have violated Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2254 through indiscriminate bombardment attacks, as well as violating many articles of international humanitarian law by committing dozens of violations that qualify as war crimes.

The report calls on the UN Security Council members to stop using their veto to protect the Syrian regime, which has committed hundreds of thousands of violations over the past 13 years, many of which constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes. Furthermore, the report calls on all parties to the conflict and controlling forces to reveal the fate of the nearly 113,000 forcibly disappeared persons in Syria, 86 percent of whom have been forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime.

The report additionally calls on the UN Security Council to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and calls for all those involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes to be held accountable. The report also calls for bringing about a political transition on the basis of the Geneva Communiqué and Security Council Resolution 2254, to ensure the stability and territorial integrity of Syria, and the dignified and safe return of refugees and IDPs.

As well as calling on the UNSC to refer the Syrian issue to the ICC, the report also calls on the international community to do likewise, or to quickly establish a tribunal dedicated to trying crimes against humanity and war crimes in order to end the cycle of impunity in Syria that has now spanned more than a decade Also, the report stresses, real pressure should be brought to bear on Russia and Iran, which should be categorized as key partners in the violations committed in Syria.

The report also calls on the international community to take serious punitive actions against the Syrian regime to deter it from killing Syrian citizens under torture. It further calls for pressure to also be applied to the other parties to the conflict through all available means to completely end all torture practices. Moreover, the report calls for the ending of internationally outlawed refoulment of Syrian refugees, since the conditions in Syria are still unsafe, and calls on the international community to apply pressure towards a political transition that would ensure the voluntary and automatic return of millions of refugees, in addition to making a number of other recommendations.


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