Syria

Extrajudicial Killing Claims the Lives of 723 Civilians in Syria in the First Half of 2021 [EN/AR]

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SNHR Documented the Deaths of 95 Civilians in June 2021, Including 22 children, Eight Women and 11 Individuals Killed by Torture

Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced in its monthly report released today that extrajudicial killing claimed the lives of 723 civilians in the first half of 2021, noting that 95 civilians were documented killed in June 2021, including 22 children, eight women and 11 individuals due to torture.

The 25-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 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 details the death toll of victims documented killed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in June and the first half of 2021, particularly focusing on the victims amongst children and women, and those who died due to torture.

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, noting that there is great difficulty in determining the party that planted landmines, due to the multiplicity of forces controlling the areas in which these explosions occurred, and therefore the report does not attribute the vast majority of killings due to landmines to a specific party. None of the perpetrator forces in the Syrian conflict have revealed maps of the places where they planted landmines.

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 continuation of the killings in various regions and in various forms confirms that Syria is one of the worst, if not the worst, country in the world for deaths among citizens due to extrajudicial killings, including killings under torture; the report outlines a number of the most notable incidents and types of killing that occurred against Syrian citizens in June. The report further reveals that remote/suicide bombings continued in Syria in June, resulting in the deaths of 10 civilians, including six children.

The report documents the deaths of 723 civilians at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria in the first half of 2021, including 145 children and 79 women (adult female). This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 115 of the civilians, including 22 children and 14 women, killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces/Russian forces, while 20 civilians, including five children and one woman, were killed at the hands of Russian forces, seven civilians were killed at the hands of ISIS, and nine civilians, including four children, were killed by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham.

The report also documents the deaths of seven civilians, including two women, at the hands of the Armed Opposition/Syrian National Army, while Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces killed 42 civilians, including seven children and one woman, and US-led Coalition forces killed one civilian. The report also documents 522 civilians, including 107 children and 61 women, killed at the hands of other parties.

As the report reveals, Aleppo governorate saw the largest death toll compared to other Syrian governorates in the first half of 2021, accounting for 23% of the total death toll, followed by Hasaka and Daraa with 14% for both, then Deir Ez-Zour with approximately 13%.

As the report explains, the SNHR’s Victim Documentation team documented the deaths of 95 civilians, including 22 children and eight women (adult female) in June. This figure is broken down according to the perpetrators in each case, with 21 of the civilian victims, including four children and one woman, killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, 13 civilians, including five children and one woman, killed at the hands of Russian forces, three civilians killed at the hands of ISIS, and two civilians, including one woman, killed at the hand of the Armed Opposition/Syrian National Army. In addition, SNHR also documented the deaths of eight civilians, including one child, killed at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and 48 civilians, including 12 children and five women, killed at the hands of other parties.

The report notes that among the victims documented are four of the medical personnel who were killed in the first half of 2021, all at the hands of other parties, including three who were killed in June. The report also reveals that two Civil Defense personnel were killed in the first half of 2021, one at the hands of Syrian regime forces and the other at the hands of Russian forces, including one who was killed in June.

The report further reveals that the SNHR’s working team documented 59 individuals who died due to torture in the first half of 2021, including two children and one woman; 45 of these victims, including one child, died at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed two, including one child. Meanwhile, two others were killed by the Armed Opposition/Syrian National Army, including one woman, eight by Syrian Democratic Forces, and two by other parties. According to the report, 11 individuals were documented as being killed as a result of torture in June, eight of them, including one child, died at the hands of Syrian regime forces, one at the hands of the Armed Opposition/Syrian National Army, and eight at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces.

The report also documents 10 massacres in the first half of 2021, using the term ‘massacre’ to refer to any attack that caused the death of at least five peaceful individuals in the same incident. According to this definition, the report reveals that in the first half of 2021 two massacres were committed by Syrian regime forces, one by Russian forces, and seven by other parties. The report also documents two massacres in June alone, one of which was committed by Russian forces, while the other was the result of shelling from an unknown source.

The report notes 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, noting that nearly 3,329 medical personnel are still detained or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime.

The report also states that it does not include all deaths, including those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily focusing on the documentation of extrajudicial killings, further noting that the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health has announced the deaths of 1,873 cases in Syria due to COVID-19 as of June 29, 2021. SNHR believes this statistic to be grossly inaccurate, given the absence of any transparency in the various government ministries, and in view of the security services’ supervision of any information issued by these ministries, as is the case with totalitarian regimes.

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 adds that the use of explosive arms munitions to target densely populated areas reflects a criminal mindset intent on deliberately inflicting the greatest possible number of deaths, which is a clear contravention of international human rights law and a flagrant violation of the fourth Geneva Convention (articles 27, 31, 32).

The report further stresses that it is impossible to hold free or fair elections under the absolute control of the security services working for a presidential candidate such as Bashar al Assad. Before there can be any discussion of a constitution and elections, the conflict must be ended, the killings must be stopped, a political transition must have taken place and a safe environment must have been achieved.

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’ 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 Syrian National Army to ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, 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 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.