Syria

125 Civilians Documented Killed in Syria in May 2020, including Eight Who Died Due to Torture, and One Massacre

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Civilian Death Toll Increased Compared to the Previous Month as a Result of Remote Bombings

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced in its monthly report released today that at least 125 civilians, including eight who died due to torture, were documented killed in Syria in May 2020 at the hands of the perpetrator parties to the conflict, in addition to one massacre, noting that the civilian death toll increased compared to the previous month as a result of remote bombings.

The 18-page report states that the crime of murder has become widespread and systematic, mainly at the hands of Syrian regime forces and their affiliated militias, adding that the entry of several parties into the Syrian conflict has increased the importance and complexity of documenting the victims killed in Syria. The report notes that since 2011, the SNHR has created complex electronic programs to archive and categorize the victims’ data, enabling the network to catalogue victims according to the gender and location where each was killed, the governorate from which each victim originally came, and the party responsible for the killing, and to make comparisons between these parties, and identify the governorates which lost the largest proportion of residents. The report catalogues the death toll of victims according to the governorate in which they were killed, rather than by the governorate they originally came from.

This report records the death toll of victims documented killed by the main perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria in May 2020, particularly focusing on the victims amongst children and women, those who died due to torture, and victims amongst media, medical and Civil Defense personnel, paying particular attention to the massacres committed by the main perpetrator parties to the conflict over the past month. As the report reveals, the statistics provided for the death toll of victims include extrajudicial killings by the dominant powers in each area which occurred as a violation of both International Human Rights Law or International Humanitarian Law, and do not include natural deaths or those caused by disputes between individual members of society.

The report includes the distribution of the death toll of victims according to the perpetrator parties, noting that in regard to joint attacks, when SNHR is unable to definitively assign responsibility for specific attacks to one specific party, as in the case of air strikes by Syrian or Russian warplanes, Syrian-Iranian attacks, or attacks by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and US-led coalition, we indicate that responsibility for these attacks is held jointly by the parties in question until we are able to establish with a high degree of probability which one of the parties was responsible, or it’s proved that the attack was a joint initiative carried out in coordination between the two parties. In addition, in cases where we are unable to definitively assign responsibility for a particular killing to one of two possible parties because of the area’s proximity to the lines of engagement, the use of similar weapons, or other reasons, the incident is categorized among ‘other parties’ until we have sufficient evidence to conclusively assign responsibility for the violation to one of the two parties.

The report draws upon the ongoing daily monitoring of news and developments, and on an extensive network of relations with various sources, in addition to analyzing a large number of photographs and videos.

The report states that the Syrian regime bears the primary responsibility for the deaths of Syrian citizens due to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the Syrian regime and its Russian ally have repeatedly been documented as having targeted, bombed and destroyed most medical facilities in Syria, and killed hundreds of medical personnel, according to the SNHR’s database, with dozens of these lifesaving medics being still classified as forcibly disappeared at the regime’s hands. The report notes that it does not include all deaths, including those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the report mainly documents extrajudicial killings.

The report documents the deaths of 125 civilians in May, including 26 children and six women (adult female). This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 10 civilians, including two women, killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while one civilian was killed at the hands of Russian forces. The report also documents in May the deaths of three civilians at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, and seven civilians, including two children and one woman, were killed at the hands of factions of the Armed Opposition, while seven civilians, including two children, were killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces. The report also documents 97 civilians, including 22 children and three women, killed at the hands of other parties.

According to the report, the SNHR’s working team documented in May eight persons died due to torture, seven of whom were killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, while one was killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces.

The report also documents one massacre in May, which occurred due to the explosion of an unknown-source car bomb, using the term ‘massacre’ to refer to an attack that caused the death of at least five peaceful individuals in the same incident.

According to the report, the evidence it collected indicates that the attacks documented were directed against civilians and civilian objects. Syrian-Russian alliance forces have committed various crimes ranging from extrajudicial killings to detention, torture and enforced disappearance. Their attacks and indiscriminate bombardment have resulted in the destruction of facilities and buildings. The report notes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.

The report stresses that the Syrian government has violated international humanitarian law and customary law, and all UN Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 2139, resolution 2042, and resolution 2254, all without any accountability. The report notes that there is no record of any warnings being issued by the Syrian Regime or Russian forces prior to any attack in accordance with the requirements of international humanitarian law. This has been the case since the beginning of the popular uprising for freedom, providing another blatant demonstration of these forces’ total disregard for the lives of civilians in Syria.

According to the report, Extremist Islamist groups have violated international humanitarian law by killing civilians, while the indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment carried out by an alliance of forces comprising US-led coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces is considered a violation of customary international humanitarian law, inadvertently causing loss of civilian lives or injuries to civilians.

The report calls on the 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 who are responsible should be held accountable including the Russian regime whose involvement in war crimes has been repeatedly proven. 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 calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ after all political channels have proved fruitless through all agreements, the Cessation of Hostilities statements, and Astana agreements that followed, stressing the need to resort to Chapter VII, and implement the norm of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly.

The report calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to launch investigations into the cases included in this report and previous reports, and confirms the SNHR’s willingness to cooperate and provide further evidence and data.

The report also calls on the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria to condemn the perpetrators of crimes and massacres and those who were primarily responsible for dooming the de-escalation agreements to failure, to re-sequence the peace process so that it can resume its natural course despite Russia’s attempts to divert and distort it, empowering the Constitutional Committee prior to the establishment of a transitional governing body.

The report emphasizes that the Russian regime must launch investigations into the incidents included in this report, make the findings of these investigations public for the Syrian people, and hold the people involved accountable, as well as demanding that the Russian regime, as a guarantor party in Astana talks, should stop thwarting de-escalation agreements.

The report also stresses that the Syrian regime must stop the indiscriminate shelling and targeting residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, as well as ending the acts of torture that have caused the deaths of thousands of Syrian citizens in detention centers, and complying with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.

The report stresses that the states supporting the SDF should apply pressure on these forces in order to compel them to cease all of their violations in all the areas and towns under their control, adding that all forms of support, military and all others, should be ceased unless the SDF stops all its violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The report calls on the Armed Opposition factions to ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, and urges them to investigate incidents that have resulted in civilian casualties, as well as calling on them to take care to distinguish between civilians and military targets and to cease any indiscriminate attacks.

Lastly, the report stresses the need for humanitarian organizations to develop urgent operational plans to secure decent shelter for internally displaced persons.