Smoke rises above rebel-held areas of the city of Daraa during reported airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on July 5, 2018. Photo: Mohamad Abazeed / AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Syrian Network for Human Rights, a UK-based conflict monitor, has documented at least 186 massacres perpetrated by different parties across the country in the first half of 2018. Fifteen occurred in June.
In a new report, the monitor uses the term massacre “to refer to an incident in which five peaceful individuals or more are killed in the same attack.”
Based on this definition, these massacres resulted in the death of 2,257 civilians – 660 of them children and 479 of them women.
“This means that 51 percent of all victims were women and children,” the report said.
The research is based news reports, survivor accounts, eyewitnesses, local media activists, and videos and photographs posted online or sent to the monitor by local activists.
Forces loyal to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad were found to be responsible for 122 of these massacres – killing 1,502 civilians, including 385 children and 295 women.
Russian forces were found to be responsible for 24 massacres – killing 291 civilians, including 103 children and 68 women.
International coalition forces, which include the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), were found to be responsible for 15 massacres – killing 199 civilians, including 101 children and 55 women.
Without naming the specific organizations, the report accuses “Kurdish self-management forces” of committing three massacres – killing 28 civilians, including one child and 12 women.
A further 22 massacres were perpetrated by other parties – killing 237 civilians, including 70 children and 49 women. Although these parties are not names, they could include ISIS, assorted Syrian opposition rebel groups, forces tied to Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch and Operation Euphrates Shield, and Iran-backed militias.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights accused the Syrian regime of crimes against humanity, and its Russian backers of war crimes.
“Syrian-Russian alliance forces have violated Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2254 through indiscriminate attacks. Also, The Syrian and Russian regime have violated Article 7 and 8 of Rome Statute through the act of willful killing, as well as the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life,” the monitor said.
“Given that these violations were committed in a non-international armed conflict, they qualify as war crimes.”
It called on the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate.
It also criticized the coalition for failing to take adequate steps to protect civilian life.
“Attacks by Coalition forces (the international coalition and SDF) have caused collateral damages that involved loss of lives, injuries, or significant damages to civilian facilities,” the report said.
“There are strong indicators suggesting that the damage was too excessive compared to the anticipated military benefit.”
The report called on states that support the Kurdish-led SDF to pressure these forces to comply with international law and to end support and provision of weaponry.
“Armed opposition factions should distinguish between civilians and military targets, and cease any indiscriminate attacks,” the report added.