Syria

1,271 Civilians, Including 299 Children, 134 Women, and 104 Victims of Torture, Killed in Syria in 2021 [EN/AR]

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69 Civilians, Including 16 Children, Seven Women, and Seven Victims of Torture, Killed in Syria in December; Killing of Syrians Has Been Continuous Since March 2011

Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced in its monthly report released today that 1,271 civilians, including 229 children, 134 women, and 104 victims of torture, were killed in Syria in 2021, noting that killing of Syrians has been continuous since March 2011, adding that 69 civilians, including 16 children, seven women, and seven victims of torture, were documented killed in Syria in December 2021.

The 33-page report states that the crime of murder has become widespread and systematic, mainly at the hands of Syrian regime forces and 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 SNHR to catalogue victims according to their gender and the 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 details the death toll of victims documented killed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria both in the past month of December and in the whole of 2021, particularly focusing on the victims amongst children and women, those who died due to torture, and victims amongst media, medical and Civil Defense personnel.

As the report explains, the statistics provided for the death toll of victims include those related to extrajudicial killings by the controlling forces in each area which occurred as a violation of both International Human Rights Law or International Humanitarian Law, and do not include deaths arising from natural causes or those caused by disputes between individual members of society.

The report also includes the distribution of the death toll of victims according to the perpetrator parties. In addition, 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 notes that the killing of civilians in Syria has continued for the eleventh consecutive year, having gone on since the outbreak of the popular uprising for democracy in Syria in March 2011, resulting in casualty numbers that are among the largest worldwide, demonstrating the instability of the situation in Syria, and underlining the fact that it is still the most dangerous country in the world for civilians, and remains an exceptionally insecure and dangerous place wholly unsuitable for the return of refugees.

Meanwhile, the report adds that first three months of the year saw the killing of approximately 34% of the 2021 death toll that the report documented. March also saw a sudden military escalation by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces, launching air and ground attacks targeting civilian areas outside the control of the Syrian regime in northwest Syria. March also saw a Russian military escalation, the largest since March 6, 2020 – from the date of the entry into force of the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement. With the beginning of June, the Syrian-Russian alliance forces launched a military campaign, targeting the Jabal al Zaweya area and its surroundings which remain outside the Syrian regime’s control in northwest Syria, using mostly ground attacks on civilian areas. This military campaign continued until September; as the report documented, it resulted in the deaths of 61 civilians, including 33 children and 12 women. The report identifies a number of the most prominent features that distinguished this military campaign, including the intense bombardment following the flights of reconnaissance planes, with attacks concentrated on gatherings of people, an intensive deployment of higher-quality weapons in terms of their accuracy in hitting the target and in the great destruction caused to the target site, as well as the deployment of munitions whose use hadn’t been previously documented in the Syrian conflict.

As the report reveals, Daraa governorate also saw a military escalation by Syrian regime forces backed by Iranian militias, in retaliation for its people’s peaceful and civilized rejection of the illegitimacy of the ‘presidential elections’ held unilaterally by the Syrian regime at the end of May. This military campaign extended from June 24 until October 2021, and included a siege on Daraa al Balad area and Tareeq al Sadd and the Camps neighborhoods, which resulted in the deaths of civilians.

The report refers to the announcement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, on September 24, 2021, that 350,209 people had been identified killed in the conflict in Syria between March 2011 and March 2021, including 26,727 women and 27,126 children, noting that the largest number of killings was recorded in Aleppo governorate, followed by Damascus Suburbs, Homs, Idlib, then Hama. The report notes that the Syrian Network for Human Rights is a primary source of victim data cited in all statistical analyzes issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report adds that on October 20, Syrian regime forces launched the largest military attack on the northwest region of Syria since March 6, 2020, in terms of civilian casualties. The attack took place in the densely populated Ariha city, two days after the start of the sixth round of talks of the Constitutional Committee, in a clear indication of the Syrian regime’s indifference to the agreements that could result from these meetings.

In 2021, the report records continuing civilian deaths as a result of landmine explosions in different governorates and regions of Syria, documenting the deaths of 176 civilians, including 74 children and 25 women, since the beginning of 2021. The report notes that the prolonged conflict, the continuation of bombardment with various types of weapons on populated areas, and the use of prohibited and indiscriminate munitions, such as cluster munitions, which remain unexploded and turn into landmines, have all caused the maiming or death of civilians even years after the bombardment incidents in which they were originally deployed; in 2021, the report records cases of deaths resulting from the remnants of previous bombardment. As the report reveals, the insecurity seen in all areas, including those under the control of the Syrian regime, has caused the continuation of remote/ suicide (forced suicide) bombings, many of which resulted in civilian casualties; the report documents the deaths of at least 111 civilians, including 51 children and eight women, as a result of bombings whose perpetrators have not been identified.

As the report further reveals that the continued deterioration of the conditions in the IDP camps in various areas has led to deaths in the camps as a result of the lack of food and medicine and the camps’ lack of the minimum necessities of life, in addition to deaths caused by fires due to the misuse of heating and cooking methods. The report adds that al Hawl Camp, in the eastern suburbs of Hasaka, which is under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces, saw the continuation of killings by gunmen that the report has been unable to identify, who are believed to be affiliated with ISIS cells. Since the beginning of 2021, the report has documented the deaths of 76 civilians, including 10 children and 23 women, in al Hawl Camp at the hands of gunmen that have not been unable identified.

The report documents the deaths of 1,271 civilians, including 299 children and 134 women (adult female), at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in 2021. This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 261 of the civilians, including 68 children and 32 women, killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while 65 civilians, including 32 children and seven women, were killed at the hands of Russian forces, and seven civilians, including two children, were killed at the hands of ISIS, with 17 other civilians, including five children, killed by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham.

The report also documents the deaths of 24 civilians, including three children and two women, at the hands of all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army, while Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces killed 75 civilians, including 11 children and two women. The report also documents two civilians killed at the hands of the US-led coalition forces, while other parties killed 820 civilians, including 178 children and 91 women.

As the report reveals, Idlib governorate saw the largest death toll compared to other Syrian governorates in 2021, accounting for 19.35% of the total death toll, followed by Aleppo governorate with 18%, Daraa with 16.5%, Deir Ez-Zour, then Hasaka. As the report explains, the SNHR’s Victim Documentation team documented the deaths of 69 civilians, including 16 children and seven women (adult female) in December. This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with eight of the civilian victims, including two children and one woman, killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and four civilians, including two children, killed at the hands of Russian forces, while one civilian was killed at the hands of all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army In addition, SNHR also documented the deaths of nine civilians killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, one killed at the hands of the US-led coalition forces, and 46 civilians, including 12 children and six women, killed at the hands of other parties.

The report records that among the victims were seven medical personnel killed in 2021; one of these was killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while the other six were killed at the hands of other parties. The report also documents that three Civil Defense personnel were killed in 2021, with one of these killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and the other two killed by Russian forces. In addition, one media worker was killed at the hands of Russian forces.

As the report further reveals, the SNHR’s working team documented 104 individuals, including two children and one woman, who died due to torture in 2021; 78 of these victims, including one child, died at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed four, including one child; meanwhile, five individuals, including one woman, were killed under torture at the hands of all Armed Opposition factions/ Syrian National Army, 15 at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and two at the hands of other parties. According to the report, seven individuals were documented killed as a result of torture in December, five of whom at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and two at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces.

The report also documents 19 massacres in 2021, with the term ‘massacre’ used to denote an attack that caused the death of at least five peaceful individuals in the same incident. According to this definition, the report records five massacres committed by Syrian regime forces in 2021, four by Russian forces, and 10 massacres committed by other parties. The report also documents one massacre in December, caused by gunfire by gunmen whom SNHR has so far been unable to identify.

As the report notes, 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 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 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 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’ (R2P) doctrine after all political channels have proved fruitless throughout all the agreements reached, 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 them 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 provide further evidence and data, as well as calling them on to focus on the issue of landmines and cluster munitions within the 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 complying with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.

The report stresses that the states supporting the SDF should cease all forms of support until the SDF commits itself to complying with the rules of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The report calls on the Armed Opposition and the Syrian National Army to ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, to take care to distinguish between civilians and military targets and to cease any indiscriminate attacks.

Lastly, the report calls on all the parties to the conflict to provide detailed maps of the locations where they have planted landmines, especially civilian sites or areas near residential communities, as well as making several additional recommendations.