Human Rights Council
24 February–20 March 2020
Agenda item 4
Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
Since the start of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, hostilities show little sign of abating in several parts of the country with a large number of State and non-State actors participating across different theatres of conflict. Multiple, rapidly shifting alliances among these parties continue to create volatility and power vacuums that facilitate violations of international law. The absence of an effective peace process, coupled with the failure of conflicting parties to provide unfettered access to humanitarian actors and independent monitors, renders distant the prospect of improving the immediate protection environment for civilians.
The operations by Turkish forces and the Syrian National Army, under the moniker Operation Peace Spring, followed the sudden withdrawal of troops of the United States of America in early October. The resulting rapid waves of civilians fleeing from the area between Ayn Isa and Tall Tamr contributed to an already dire displacement situation for many, including children, in areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
As battles waged over strategic areas in southern Idlib, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham terrorists attempted to tighten their grip over the population. Activists, journalists and civilians continue to be unlawfully detained for criticizing the group’s mounting interference. Pro-government forces also carried out aerial and ground attacks in southern Idlib against terrorist organizations, striking civilian infrastructure, including protected objects such as medical facilities. Access to medical care for the wounded was thus undermined, while attacks on women’s and children’s hospitals prevented pregnant women and new mothers from receiving medical care. Between May 2019 and early January 2020, these attacks caused the displacement of 700,000 civilians.
In government-controlled areas, conditions for return remained largely absent with significant barriers in place for civilians to claim their property, including expropriation by the Government. In formerly besieged towns and villages where “reconciliation” agreements have been imposed, ubiquitous checkpoints created fear among the civilian population and restricted freedom of movement and access to basic services.
These circumstances left little respite for those in the Syrian Arab Republic and the multitude of violations outlined in the report demonstrate a stark reality for countless women, men and children. Gender roles, and the inequalities that underpin them, have fuelled and amplified the direct impact of these violations. Women, and in particular those belonging to certain religious and ethnic communities, have been adversely affected by the conflict. In camps in areas controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces, foreign children with alleged familial links to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant continued to languish in despair, becoming increasingly vulnerable. As many of their countries of origin refuse repatriation, thousands of children, many unaccompanied, remain in a legal limbo.
All warring parties continue to ignore or deny protection, including guarantees of sustained and unhindered humanitarian assistance, to vulnerable civilians. Despite appeals and recommendations in previous reports for warring parties to take corrective action, the calls have largely gone unheeded.