The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released its 12th annual report since the start of the popular uprising in March 2011. Entitled, ‘Normalizing Relationships with the Syrian Regime is a Blatant Violation of the Rights of Millions of Syrians’, the report outlines the most notable violations of human rights at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria for the year 2022. Most notably, the report reveals that 1,057 civilians; including 251 children, 94 women (adult female), and 133 victims who died due to torture, were killed in 2022, while a total of 2,221 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention were documented this year, in addition to the displacement of approximately 75,000 people.
As the 163-page report explains, the escalating impact of human rights violations over the past 12 years has made for a catastrophic state of human rights in Syria. Violations of human rights include, inter alia, killing, arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance, forced displacement, seizure of lands and properties, and rampant security instability that have provided a ripe environment for many assassinations and bombings, with all these violations still being documented in Syria. The report stresses that, due to these violations, which threaten the very core of the rights and dignity of the human being, with no end in sight or any concrete means of holding the perpetrator accountable yet available, hundreds of thousands of Syrians continue to sell their properties, flee their lands and seek asylum around the world. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of Syrians now in exile will not even consider returning to Syria in the current conditions, while even those who remain in Syria are searching for a way out, due to the fact that Syria has become a unhabitable country with no regard for even the most basic human rights; this in turn has taken a heavy toll on the economy which has plummeted to even worse depths compared only to last year. Syria has been rated as one of the world’s worst countries in regard to basic human rights.
It is SNHR’s view that the root of the problem in Syria is despotism and the refusal of any democratic transition of power outside the Assad family which has ruled Syria for decades. Even other de facto authorities reject any local form of democracy. Bringing about an end to the human rights violations in Syria, especially the widespread and systematic ones, cannot be achieved without bringing about a political resolution. This requires the engagement of all the parties to the conflict and their backer states in achieving a political transition. Ultimately, the responsibility for this falls upon the international community and UN Security Council.
The report explains that the political process reaching a dead end in Geneva has given rise to other attempted steps in the political arena that involve reviving relations with the Syrian regime without taking into account its involvement in crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian state and the Syrian people. The report stresses that any states working to restore relations with the Syrian regime are giving their backing and support to a regime that continues to this day to commit crimes against humanity against the Syrian people, and, through this support, are partners in those crimes. Future Syrian governments and local and international human rights groups must expose these blatant violations of international law.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Executive Director of SNHR, says:
“Normalizing relationships with the Syrian regime is an affront to the state that comes to such a decision, and even before that to the millions of Syrian victims, especially those killed by various types of weapons, including chemical weapons, and those who’ve died due to torture. Normalizing relationships with the Syrian regime is also a violation of international law since, in doing so, a state would be supporting a regime that committed and is committing crimes against humanity against its people. All states attempting to revive relations with the Syrian regime and all the world’s nations should instead work to help achieve a political transition in Syria in 2023. This alone would put an end to innumerable violations and ensure the return of thousands of refugees, as well as ending the outflow of people fleeing Syria.”
The report provides an outline of the most notable and prominent violations of human rights in Syria for 2022, while drawing comparisons between the most notable patterns of violations recorded in 2022 and 2021. Furthermore, the report contains a summary of the most noteworthy political, military, and human rights developments in an attempt to provide a clearer picture of the context in which the violations tool place. To that end, the report provides details of the most notable developments in the arenas of politics, military, and human rights, as well as the investigations carried out on Syria over the past year. Moreover, the report touches upon the subject of the path of accountability, stressing that the progress made on that front still falls far short of deterring the perpetrators of violations and holding them accountable. The report also highlights the role played by SNHR in supporting the path of accountability, noting that the group released approximately 74 reports and 869 news bulletins in the year 2022 which analyzed the various forms of the most prominent violations of human rights.
The latest annual report also draws upon around 195 first-hand accounts from victims who suffered various types of violations, as well as accounts from injured individuals, survivors, paramedics, central signal workers, and victims’ family members. All these testimonies were obtained through speaking directly with eyewitnesses, with none of them cited from any second-hand sources.
As SNHR’s database shows, a total of 1,057 civilians were documented as having been killed in 2022, including 251 children and 94 women (adult female), at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling force sin Syria. Of this total, the Syrian regime was responsible for the killing of 196 civilians, including 30 children and seven women, with the regime committing two massacres this year, while Russian forces killed 17 civilians, including eight children and one woman, as well as committing two massacres. Meanwhile, ISIS killed nine civilians and committed one massacre, while Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) killed 11 civilians, including two children and two women. Furthermore, the report documents that 24 civilians, including seven children and five women, were killed at the hands of all armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA), while the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed 76 civilians, including 11 children and six women, with these forces also committing one massacre. The report records that 724 civilians, including 193 children and 73 women, were killed by other parties, who were also responsible for six massacres.
As the report further reveals, approximately 2,221 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention were documented in 2022, with those detained including 148 children and 457 women (adult female). Of these, the Syrian regime was responsible for 1,017 cases, including 38 children and 416 women, while HTS was responsible for 202 cases, including 13 children and three women. In addition, all armed opposition factions/SNA were responsible for 369 cases, including four children and 28 women, while the SDF was responsible for 633 cases in 2022, including 93 children and 10 women.
The report adds that no fewer than 133 individuals were documented as dying due to torture in 2022, distributed as follows: 115 at the hands of Syrian regime forces, including one child and one woman, 14 at the hands of the SDF, three at the hands of all armed opposition factions/SNA, and finally one at the hands of HTS.
The report also provides details of the most notable violations against medical personnel and media workers, noting that six medical personnel were killed by other parties in 2022, while three media workers were killed this year: one by Syrian regime forces, one by all armed opposition factions/SNA, and one by Turkish forces.
As to the report further reveals, no fewer than 92 attacks on civilian vital facilities were documented in 2022 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces, including 14 by Syrian regime forces and eight by Russian forces. Furthermore, HTS was responsible for one attack, while all armed opposition factions/SNA were responsible for 10 attacks, and the SDF was responsible for 22 attacks. Finally, the report records that 37 attacks on vital civilian facilities were carried out by other parties.
In 2022, the report records one attack that involved the use of cluster munitions by Syrian regime forces in Idlib governorate. The attack resulted in the killing of 11 individuals: nine civilians; including four children, two women, and one unborn fetus, and two HTS fighters, while around 75 others were injured.
The report also notes that approximately 75,000 people were displaced in 2022 as a result of the military operations carried out by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria, including 11,000 people who were displaced as a result of the military operations by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces.
The report calls on the Security Council to take additional steps following the adoption of Resolution 2254, which clearly demands that all parties should, “…Immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such, including attacks against medical facilities and personnel, and any indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment,” and to find ways and mechanisms to implement Security Council Resolutions 2041, 2042, 2139 and Article 12 of Resolution 2254 regarding detainees and forcibly disappeared persons in Syria.
The report adds that UN Security Council member states must stop using their veto to protect the Syrian regime, which has committed hundreds of thousands of violations for almost 12 years to date, many of which constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes. Furthermore, the report stresses that the Syrian issue must be referred by the Security Council to the UN General Assembly and calls for the Syrian case to be referred to the International Criminal Court, emphasizing that all those involved in perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes must be held accountable. The report also calls on the Security Council to stop controlling the UN cross-border relief aid delivery process, considering this to be within the scope of the UN General Assembly and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Moreover, the report calls on the Security Council to seriously work to achieve a political transition under the Geneva Communiqué and Security Council Resolution No. 2254, to ensure the stability and territorial integrity of Syria, and the dignified and safe return of refugees and IDPs, as well as to allocate a significant amount of money for clearing mines left over by the Syrian conflict from the United Nations Mine Action Service, particularly in areas prepared to carry out this task with transparency and integrity.
Additionally, the report calls on the international community to act at the national and regional levels to form alliances to support the Syrian people and to increase support for relief efforts. The report also calls on the international community to stop any forcible return of Syrian refugees, since the situation in Syria continues to be unsafe, and to put pressure on the relevant parties to achieve a political transition that would ensure the automatic return of millions of refugees.
The report also demands that the UN Special Envoy to Syria calls for the rapid implementation of democratic political change that would restore victims’ rights and embody the principles of transitional justice. The UN Special Envoy should also clearly assign responsibility to the party responsible for the death of the political process and disclose to the Syrian people the timing of the end of the political transition process. The report also makes a number of additional recommendations.