At least 107 civilians – including 26 children and 11 women – were the latest to be killed in the Syrian conflict in the month of July 2020, according to a new report released by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) on 2 August 2020. The SNHR report also detailed how four massacres occurred and 13 victims died as a result of torture in the same period.
The report draws on daily monitoring of news outlets and developments, as well as an “extensive network of relations with various sources, in addition to analyzing a large number of photographs and videos.”.
The Syrian regime is found to bear the primary responsibility for these deaths, directly responsible for the death of 21 civilians, including 4 children.
Seven civilians, including four children and two women, were killed at the hands of the armed opposition and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed two civilians.
The report also documents the deaths of four civilians at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, while 73 civilians, including 18 children and nine women, killed at the hands of other parties.
In cases where SNHR could not definitively assign responsibility for specific attacks to one specific party, as in the case of air strikes by Syrian or Russian warplanes, they “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,”.
SNHR note that the beginning of 2020 saw an escalation of:
“Violent military operations led by the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies against the areas outside its control in and around Idlib.”
These operations partially subsiding – as a result of the Russian-Turkish ceasefire – may account for the reduction in civilian deaths compared to the first three months of the year.
It is also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic – and the effect it is having on the capabilities of the regime and its affiliated Iranian militias – might also be behind the lower death toll.
Despite all this, the report found 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”; further emphasising the problems faced by the coronavirus in the conflict-riddled country.
Over the course of the conflict lifesaving medics have continually been targeted with thousands being classified as forcibly displaced at the hands of the regime, with the report finding “3,327 medical personnel are still detained or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime.”
The Syrian Regime forces were also responsible for the death of 10 of the 13 victims. One of the 13 died at the hands of the Syrian National Army, and two at the hands of Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
On announcing the report, SNHR said:
“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.”
SNHR concluded that the Syrian case must be referred 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 UN OCHA projected that 11.7 million people in Syria would require humanitarian and protection assistance in 2019. As well as abuses faced at the hands of the regime, the people of Syria also face relentless rights abuses from non-state armed groups opposing the government.
Despite several resolutions of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, the Syrian regime has not fulfilled any of its obligations under the international treaties and conventions it has ratified. Within its domestic law, the regime has continued to bend legislation to suit its aims.
Accountability for these massacres still remains elusive. However, in May 2020 a court in Koblenz Germany began a landmark criminal trial on state-sponsored torture in Syria demonstrating a window of opportunity for justice. As a result of this trial, two suspected members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s intelligence services were charged with crimes against humanity.