SNHR has released a report entitled: “The Ruthless Bombing” which documents that Syrian regime forces has dropped nearly 70,000 barrel bombs since July 2012.
The report says that the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian regime army manifest one of the most appalling ways in which the international community has blatantly let down the Syrian people as these barrel bombs have been forgotten almost completely in the last year with no condemnations to be heard about the repeated use of this barbarian type of weapons. Additionally, the report questions the possibility of accepting a regime that drops barbarian barrels on its own country without agreeing to any form of political settlements, except for one that rehabilitees it and only leads to giving some ceremonial ministries to its opponents.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says: “The repeated use of this arbitrary, indiscriminate weapon against residential communities is a message to the Syrian people that protecting civilians and the international law are mere illusions, and that you have to submit and accept the regime that is killing you. Security Council has to take decisive action against the Syrian regime’s use of arbitrary weapon on this large, widespread scale. The U.N. special envoy has also to play a more effectual role in putting an end to the winter of barrel bombs in Syria.”
The report documents the toll of barrel bomb use by Syrian regime forces from the first time it was used in July 2012 until December 2017 and the resultant casualties and attacks on vital civilian facilities. The report stresses that the use of barrel bombs haven’t stopped for even one month, including the months that saw de-escalation agreements or Geneva Talks.
The report draws upon the daily, ongoing, routine monitoring and documentation efforts, in addition to accounts by survivors, eyewitnesses, and local media activists as the report contains nine accounts. Also, the report relies on videos and pictures that were posted online.
The report sheds light on the nature of barrel bombs, manufacture methods used by the Syrian regime, types of containers and explosive materials, and whatever chemical or incendiary substances that are added in some cases. Also, the report outlines a number of areas where the Syrian regime used barrel bombs heavily in the context of military progression such as Darayya city and Khan al Sheih town in Damascus suburbs, and al Mayadeen city in Deir Ez-Zour.
The report records that no less than 68,334 barrel bombs have been dropped by Syrian regime helicopters or fixed-wing warplanes from its first documented use in July 2012 until December 2017. These barrel bombs have resulted in the killing of 10,763 civilians, including 1,734 children and 1,689 women (adult female). In addition, no less than 565 attacks on vital civilian facilities were recorded in which barrel bombs were used, including 76 on medical facilities, 140 on schools, 160 on mosques, and 50 on markets.
According to the report, the governorates that saw the largest portion of barrel bombs were Damascus and its suburbs, followed by Aleppo and then Daraa while barrel bombs were used the most in 2015 where Syrian regime forces dropped 17,318 barrel bombs in that year alone.
The report says that Security Council resolution 2139 represented some hope for the Syrian people due to the fact that barrel bombs were explicitly mentioned in that resolution which also promised to take further steps in the case of non-compliance. However, the rate of barrel bomb use, according to the report, never changed after the resolution was adopted. The report divides the overall toll of barrel bombs before and after the resolution as the report records no less than 20,183 barrel bombs since from July 2012 to February 22, 2014, when the resolution was adopted, while no less than 48,151 barrel bombs were documented in the period of time from the resolution was adopted until December 2017.
According to the report, 87 attacks with barrel bombs loaded with a poison gas and four attacks with barrel bombs loaded with incendiary ammunitions were recorded. All of these attacks took place after Security Council resolution 2139 was adopted.
The report stresses that the Syrian government has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254, and used barrel bombs in a systematic, widespread manner. Also, the Syrian government, through the crime of willful killing, has violated Article 7 of Rome Statute as well as the rules of the international human rights law, which guarantee the right to life. Seeing that these crimes were committed in a non-international armed conflict, it constitutes war crimes.
The report adds that barrel bomb attacks are an indiscriminate bombing that targeted defenseless civilians and caused significant damages to civilian objects. The damage was too excessive compared to the anticipated military benefit.
According to the report, The Syrian regime has violated the rules of the customary international law, the CWC, and all relevant Security Council resolutions -particularly 2118, 2209, and 2235- through the use of barrel bombs. Additionally, using chemical weapons constitutes a war crime according to the ICC’s Rome Statue.
Furthermore, the report says that Syrian regime forces have used barrel bombs loaded with incendiary ammunitions against populated residential neighborhoods without taking any measures to reduce the damages to civilians and civilian buildings and facilities.
The report calls on the Security Council to ensure the serious implementation of its resolutions, and calls on the four permanent state members to apply pressure on the Russian government in order to cease its support for the Syrian regime. In addition, the report stresses that an arms embargo should be imposed on the Syrian regime and all those who supply the Syrian regime with finance and weapon should be prosecuted in light of the risk of these weapons being used in crimes and serious violations of human rights.
Also, the report calls on the Security Council to refer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and provide all possible facilitations in this regard. Additionally, the report says that the Security Council should start imposing security and peace and Syria and prosecute all those whose involvement in perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity should be prosecuted. The report calls on the European Union and the United States to support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 71/248, adopted on December 21, 2016, establish local tribunals that enjoy a universal jurisdiction, and address the war crimes that were perpetrated in Syria.
The report says that steps should be taken on the national and regional levels to form alliances to support and protect the Syrian people from the daily killing. In addition, steps should be taken to put the principle of universal jurisdiction into practice with regard to these crimes before local tribunals. Moreover, the report says that pressure should be applied on the Syrian government in order to compel it to ratify Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and comply with its restrictions.
The report calls for the implementation of the “Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) norm especially after all political steps had been consumed through the agreement of the Arab League and then Kofi Annan’s plan and the Cessation of Hostilities statements and Astana Agreements that followed. Therefore, steps under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations should be taken, and the norm of the Responsibility to Protect, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, should be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.