HomeReportMonthly ReportsMost Notable Human Rights Violations in Syria in March 2024

Most Notable Human Rights Violations in Syria in March 2024

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Violations Recorded Across All Areas of Control Are Further Evidence that Syria in its Entirety is Unsafe for the Return of Refugees

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Press Release: (Download the full report below)

The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released its monthly special report summarizing the human rights situation in Syria, as well as documenting the most prominent human rights violations committed by the parties to the conflict and the dominant forces in Syria in the previous month, March 2024. Amongst other subjects, the report notes that the fact that violations were recorded across all areas of control in Syria constitute further evidence that Syria in its entirety is unsafe for the return of refugees.

This month’s 30-page report provides details of the most prominent violations documented in March 2024, including the civilian victims killed by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces during this period, in addition to providing a summary of the month’s arrests/detentions and enforced disappearances, along with other information. It also sheds light on indiscriminate attacks, the use of unlawful weapons, and attacks on civilian objects which SNHR was able to document during this period.

In compiling our reports, SNHR relies on our team’s continuous monitoring of incidents and news reports and on information gathered by a wide network of trusted contacts from dozens of diverse sources, in addition to exhaustive analysis of a large number of photos and videos.

In March 2024, the report reveals, SNHR documented the killing of 102 civilians, including 11 children and 14 women (adult female), most of whom were killed at the hands of other parties, while at least two massacres were documented this month. Among the 102 civilians, the report documents the killing of one medical worker and five deaths due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria, most of whom died at the hands of Syrian regime forces. Additionally, the report documents 203 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria, with those arrested/detained including eight children and five women at the hands. Syrian regime forces were responsible for the largest proportions of arrests/detentions in the month of March.

Additionally, the report reveals that a total of seven attacks on vital civilian facilities were documented in March 2024, including three attacks by Syrian regime forces, which were concentrated in Idlib governorate. Of these seven attacks, one targeted an educational facility, and another targeted a place of worship.

The report additionally notes that, in northwestern Syria, March saw more ground attack by Syrian regime forces who targeted the villages and towns of southern and eastern rural Idlib, western rural Aleppo, and Sahl al-Ghab in western rural Hama, with all these areas being close to the dividing lines with armed opposition factions. The attacks also targeted villages and towns in southern and eastern rural Idlib governorate and western rural Aleppo, as well as areas under the control of the Syrian National Army (SNA) in northern rural Aleppo, which are all located far from the dividing lines. Meanwhile, regime forces also continued their increasingly heavy use of kamikaze unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as kamikaze drones, in March for the second consecutive month. Drones were used to carry out several attacks on areas in Sahl al-Ghab in western rural Hama, as well as eastern rural Idlib and western rural Aleppo, targeting areas both near and far from the dividing lines. Some of these attacks resulted in civilian deaths and injuries. The report also documented that SNA-held areas in Aleppo were targeted in a number of ground attacks that originated from the areas under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and regime forces.

As the report further reveals, the poor and harsh weather conditions in March damaged at least five camps housing internally displaced persons (IDPs) and earthquake victims, which are spread across rural areas in Idlib and Aleppo governorates. In these camps, rainwater formed torrential streams and pools of muddy water, which cut off roads. Meanwhile, fires of various causes caused damage in nine different IDP camps in the rural areas of the two governorates of Idlib and Aleppo.

In terms of the living situation in northwestern Syria, civilians are still grappling with worsening economic and living standards in light of rising prices for foodstuff and supplies. Residents in these areas are already suffering from greatly reduced purchasing power due to the widespread unemployment and rising poverty rates,  as well as low wages, especially in the areas housing IDPs camps, with all these challenges exacerbated by the plummeting value of the Turkish Lira (TRY), the currency used in northwestern Syria.

Meanwhile, the report adds, Syrian regime forces continued their restrictive policies against civilians in areas under their control in March, with civilians still being persecuted and targeted over their political dissidence and expression of dissenting views, a freedom that should be protected by both the Syrian Constitution and international law. Regime forces also carried out arrests and other acts leading to enforced disappearances throughout the areas under their control. The governorates of Rural Damascus ‘Rif Dimshaq’, followed by Damascus, and then Homs saw the highest number of such practices in the month of March. Also, torture continues to be widespread in regime detention centers, where, the report notes, the regime has violated the order issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on November 16, 2023, through these practices. As if all this weren’t enough, the regime continues to confiscate and seize control of properties, rationalizing this practice through a system of specially designed laws and articles of legislation. The regime is also still stealing aid funds and using these both in the service of its goals and to control the fates of the intended recipients. The regime has been enforcing these practices through its absolute control over the NGOs receiving and managing those funds.

As the report further reveals, economic and living conditions continued to deteriorate, along with the service and security situation, across all sectors in regime-controlled areas of Syria. The value of the Syrian Pound (SYP) has continued to plunge against the US Dollar. Naturally, this leads to price increases for all goods and services, including food supplies, adversely affecting citizens’ already limited purchasing power.

In northeastern Syria, the report notes that regime forces and pro-regime Iranian militias carried out artillery attacks against areas in Deir Ez-Zour where SDF troops are positioned. In turn, the SDF retaliated by bombarding regime-controlled areas. The report also notes that SDF-controlled areas in Aleppo governorate were targeted in a number of ground attacks originating from areas where SNA troops are based. Moreover, the report recorded multiple civilian deaths and injuries as a result of SDF gunfire in the group’s territories, as the group also continued to arbitrarily arrest civilians and abduct children for the purpose of conscription. Furthermore, the clashes in Deir Ez-Zour which began on August 27, 2023, between the SDF and Arab tribes backed by the Deir Ez-Zour Military Council, continued in March, albeit more sporadically, and were limited to areas of eastern Deir Ez-Zour. IDPs’ suffering also continued in March in many of the IDPs camps spread across northern and eastern Syria, particularly the irregular IDP camps located in western rural Deir Ez-Zour, where IDPs are still grappling with inadequate access to basic services, and lack of water and power, all further exacerbated by the harsh winter weather conditions. The living and security situation in northeastern Syria also continued to deteriorate. Prices of foodstuffs, including vegetables and meat, as well as fuel and other essential commodities in the region, continue to rise, due to the controlling forces’ failure to regulate the market, coupled with the escalation of hostilities in northeastern Syria.

The report stresses that all the evidence collected suggests that attacks have been deliberately directed at civilians and civilian facilities. Syrian-Russian alliance forces have committed a wide variety of crimes, ranging from extrajudicial killings to arrests, torture, and enforced disappearances. The report notes that these attacks and indiscriminate bombardment by air and ground forces have destroyed homes, schools, hospitals, shops, and other structures, and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.

The report affirms that the Syrian regime has continued to violate international humanitarian and customary law, and UN Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 2139 and resolution 2042 related to the release of detainees, as well as resolution 2254, all without facing any accountability.

The report further notes that the continuing indiscriminate and disproportionate shelling by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, with the group’s indiscriminate killings amounting to war crimes.

In the report, SNHR once again calls on the UN Security Council to take additional measures following the adoption of Resolution 2254, and stresses the need to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court and to hold all those involved, including the Russian regime, accountable since all have been proven to be involved in the commission of war crimes.

The report recommends that the UN Security Council should adopt a resolution prohibiting the use of cluster munitions and mines in Syria similar to the existing prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, which should include information on how to safely dispose of the remnants of these dangerous weapons.

The report also calls on all relevant United Nations agencies to make far greater efforts regarding the provision of humanitarian, food and medical assistance in areas where hostilities have ceased, in camps for internally displaced persons, and in their follow-up on funding from states which have pledged the necessary voluntary contributions.

The report further calls for the application of the principle of responsibility to protect (R2P), especially after the exhaustion of political steps through all the agreements, statements of cessation of hostilities and Astana agreements issued to date, stressing the need to resort to Chapter VII and apply the R2P principle, approved by the United Nations General Assembly.

The report additionally recommends that the International Independent Commission of Inquiry (CoI) should open investigations into the incidents detailed in this report and previous reports, confirming the Syrian Network for Human Rights’ readiness to cooperate in any such endeavors and to provide further evidence and details. It also calls for the issue of mines and cluster munitions to be highlighted in the CoI’s next report.

The report also calls on the UN’s Special Envoy to Syria to condemn the perpetrators of all crimes and massacres and to denounce those who are primarily responsible for disregarding agreements reached on reducing the escalation of violence, as well as calling on him to restore the peace process to its normal form after Russia’s attempts to distort it, and to present the Constitutional Committee to the transitional government.

The report further stresses the need for the Syrian regime to cease its indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, and its use of prohibited munitions and barrel bombs, and to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.

In addition, the report emphasizes the need for the countries supporting the SDF to press the Kurdish-led group to cease all its violations in all the areas and towns under its control. Also in the report, the SNHR once again calls on the SDF to immediately end its conscription of children, to hold all personnel involved in doing so accountable, and to undertake to immediately return all children arrested for military conscription to their families.

The report further recommends that armed opposition factions and the SNA should ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, should distinguish between military and civilian targets, and should refrain from any further indiscriminate attacks.

The report also stresses the need for humanitarian organizations to develop urgent operational plans with a view to securing dignified, safe shelter for internally displaced persons, and to provide care facilities and mechanisms such as medical establishments, schools and ambulances with markings visible from long distances, as well as making a number of additional recommendations.

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