SNHR has published its periodic death toll report for the month of June 2017 in which it documented the killing of 5381 civilians in the first half of 2017 at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria.
The report sheds light on the de-escalation zones agreement that went into effect on May 6, 2017, after it was announced at the end of the fourth round of negotiations that was held between Russian, Turkish, and Iranian representatives, who attended as the sponsoring states of Ankara Ceasefire Agreement. The agreement establishes four de-escalation zones that will see cessation of combat operation, and passage of humanitarian aids, while the IDPs are allowed to go back to these areas. The areas, as outlined by the agreement, are: Idlib governorate and the surrounding areas (parts of Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia governorates), northern Homs governorate, Eastern Ghouta, and parts of Daraa and al Quneitra governorates in the southern parts of Syria, provided that an expert committee will accurately assign the borders of these areas at a later date.
The report notes that these areas saw a relatively noticeable and good decrease in killing rates compared with the previous months since March 2011, where we recorded last month a 69% decline in the rates of killings at the hands of the Syrian-Russian alliance throughout Syria from last April, which reflected on the living aspects of civilians who live in the areas that were included in the agreement, as patients were able to go to hospitals and medical points, and many children went back to school after their families prevented them out of fear for their lives in light of the repeated bombing that targeted schools, as well as hospitals. Markets became more active, and many infrastructure services were restored thanks to a number of maintenance campaigns. Nonetheless, breaches didn’t stop, mainly by the Syrian regime, who is seemingly the party that would be most affected should the ceasefire go on, and in particular extrajudicial killing crimes and, more horrendously, deaths due to torture. This strongly asserts that there is a ceasefire of some sort on the table, but the crimes that the international community -especially the Russian, Turkish, and Iranian sponsors- won’t see are still going on as nothing had happened.
Also, we recorded this month that international coalition forces continue to be a prominent party in killing civilians in Syria, as they were responsible for the killing of 32% of the total number of civilian victims – only surpassed by Syrian regime forces. 25% of the victims killed by international coalition forces were children. The killings were concentrated in the eastern region of Syria in general, and in Raqqa governorate particularly under the pretext of taking down ISIS.
Furthermore, the report notes that SNHR team encounters difficulties in documenting victims from armed opposition factions as many of those victims are killed on battlefronts and not inside cities. Also, we aren’t able to obtain details such as names, pictures and other important details on account of the armed opposition forces’ unwillingness to reveal such information for security concerns among other reasons. Therefore, the actual number of victims is much greater than what is being recorded.
On the other side, the report stresses that it is almost impossible to access information about victims from Syrian regime forces or from ISIS and the margin of error is considerably higher due to the lack of any applicable methodology in this type of documentation. The Syrian government and ISIS don’t publish, reveal, or record their victims. From our perspective, the statistics published by some groups on this category of victims are fictitious and are not based on any actual data.
Therefore, the report only incudes civilian victims who were killed by all parties and compare them.
The report outlines the civilian death toll in the first half of 2017, which amounted to 5381 civilians, including 2072 killed by Syrian regime forces. Of those, 318 children (two children are killed every day on average) and 245 women. Additionally, among the victims were 93 who died due to torture. Furthermore, international coalition forces killed 1008 civilians, including 291 children and 183 women, while Russian forces killed 641 civilians, including 209 children and 122 women. In addition, the report records that Kurdish Self-Management forces killed 153 civilians, including 31 children and 25 women in addition to five who died due to torture. Extremist Islamic groups killed 866 civilians, including 181 children and 94 women, where 857 of those, including 180 children and 94 women, were killed by ISIS, whereas nine civilians, including one child, were killed by Fateh al Sham Front. Armed opposition factions killed 119 civilians in the first half of 2017 including 35 children and 15 women in addition to three who died due to torture. Lastly, the report records that 522 civilians, including 94 children and 58 women in addition to three who died due to torture, were killed at the hands of other parties.
The report breaks down the death toll of June 2017, which amounted to 848 civilians, where Syrian regime forces killed 278 civilians including 43 children (two children are killed every day) and 36 women (adult female). Additionally, among the victims were 22 civilians who died due to torture.
The report notes that forces we believe are Russian killed 21 civilians including seven children and five women.
Additionally, the report documented the killing of 77 civilians at the hands of the Kurdish Self-management forces including 13 children and 15 women. In addition, among the victims was one who died due to torture.
The report documents that 143 civilians, including 41 children and six women, were killed at the hands of extremist Islamic groups – ISIS killed 140 civilians, including 41 children and six women, while Fateh al Sham Front killed three civilians.
Also, the report says that armed opposition factions killed 17 civilians including five children and two women.
In addition, the report records that 265 civilians, including 64 children and 45 women, were killed by the international coalition forces in June 2017.
The report documents that 47 civilians, including seven children and two women in addition to one who died due to torture, have either died drowning as they were fleeing by sea or in bombings that SNHR hasn’t been able to identify its perpetrators, as of this writing, or by bullets or landmines that we couldn’t determine their source, or by Turkish, Jordanian, or Lebanese forces.
The report says that SNHR hopes that the de-escalation zones agreement sees a good commitment, so it becomes a stronger foundation on which a political process would be built that would fulfil justice for the victims, and hold all the perpetrators accountable for their violations; most pressingly the party that was primarily responsible for the dire situation that Syria have come into: the current ruling regime who has perpetrated roughly 90% of all violations against the Syrian people.
The report emphasizes that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have violated the international human rights law which guarantees the right to life. Furthermore, evidences and proofs, according to hundreds of eyewitnesses’ accounts, suggest that 90% at least of the widespread and single attacks were directed against civilians and civilian facilities.
The report adds that international coalition forces have perpetrated crimes of extrajudicial killing that qualify as war crimes. Additionally, Self-Management forces, ISIS, Fateh al Sham Front, and some armed opposition factions have committed war crimes through the crime of extrajudicial killing.
The report calls on the Security Council and the relevant international entities to uphold their responsibilities in relation to the crimes of killing that is being perpetrated ceaselessly and to apply pressure on the Syrian government to stop the deliberate and indiscriminate shelling against civilians.
Finally, the report considers the Russian regime, all Shiite militias, and ISIS as foreign parties that are effectively involved in the killings and holds all of these parties and the financiers and supports of the Syrian regime legally and judicially responsible.
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