International Human Rights Day | SOHR renew appeals to the international community and human rights organizations to respect the principles of UN Charter and human rights laws • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

International Human Rights Day | SOHR renew appeals to the international community and human rights organizations to respect the principles of UN Charter and human rights laws

Human Rights in Syria: Lost and violated rights in bloody and raging war

On December 10, the whole world marks the 73rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings.

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ preamble is unequivocal, as it read “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

 

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

 

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

 

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

 

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

 

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

 

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

 

Now, therefore,

 

The General Assembly,

 

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

 

While the first article of the declaration stresses that  “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

 

For decades, the Syrian people have dreamed of having and enjoying human rights principles, including equality between males and females, in their homeland, especially since injustice, inequality, marginalization and torture have been the leading features in recent times. Such conditions have been produced by authoritarianism and dictatorship which are the cornerstone of the regime structure and its governing policies which all have manifested themselves in the lack of freedom, democracy, destruction, ethnic hatred and sectarian strife. In addition, many decrees and decisions issued by the Syrian regime have reined in  Syrian aspirations, with the  regime clinging to power by repression and violence. Moreover, the Syrian people reject outright the regime’s “unjust” constitution which grants  members of Al-Baath Party and their affiliates advantages and privileges that are denied to the rest over Syrian society. This  regime  has never accepted any attempts to negotiate with opponents to reach a political settlement and rejected all proposals for reforms, even before 2011.

 

The Syrian opposition sees that the statements and speeches of “democracy” and “pluralism” in the past years as “farcical” and as an attempt to woo the people and legitimize violations, while most actors parrot such slogans and could not careless about the importance human rights.

 

For ten years,  Syrians have been struggled with perhaps the most violent military battles and indiscriminate bombardment not seen since the Second War, as the intervention of foreign powers has worsened the situation further.

 

The violations by regime forces, rebel factions and foreign actors against international laws and human rights included unlawful killing, arbitrary arrests, desecration of bodies, enforced disappearances, torture and massacres in prisons, lack of medical care provided to detainees and unjust trials. Besides, the frequent and indiscriminate airstrikes, which have targeted houses, schools, institutes, public and private educational centres, hospitals, outdoors markets and gatherings of displaced people and refugees, have left thousands of fatalities and maimed even more.

 

Between December 1, 2020, and December 1, 2021, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has documented the death of 3,654 civilians across Syria.

 

A breakdown of the death toll is as follows:

 

  • 236 civilians, including 72 children and 48 women, were killed in shelling and gunfire by regime forces.

 

  • 300 civilians, including 141 children and 29 women, were killed in explosions of IEDs and landmines.

 

  • 296 civilians, including 15 children and 19 women, were killed in separate assassinations across Syria.

 

  • 76 civilians, including 13 children and 19 women, were killed in unknown circumstances.

 

  • 49 civilians, including eight women and four children, were killed in car-bomb explosions.

 

  • 33 civilians, including nine children and a woman, were killed by the Turkish border guard forces “Jandarma”.

 

  • 23 civilians, including ten children and two women, were killed in Turkish bombardment.

 

  • 32 civilians, including four children and two women, were killed by Syria Democratic Forces (SDF).

 

  • 22 civilians, including two children and two women, were killed by opposition factions.

 

  • 12 civilians, including a child and two women, were killed by extremists.

 

  • 12 civilians, including six children and three women, were killed in Russian airstrikes.

 

  • Three children died of poor health conditions.

 

  • Five civilians were killed by International Coalition Forces.

 

  • Six civilians, including four children, were killed in Israeli bombardment.

 

  • 71 civilians, including seven children and 16 women, were killed by ISIS.

 

  • 183 civilians, including 22 women and 27 children, were killed in “honour killings”, family and factional rivalries and indiscriminate gunfire.

 

  • 25 civilians died under torture in regime prison and security centres.

 

Moreover, over one million people, including 155,002 women, were arrested by regime security services since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011, according to SOHR statistics.

 

SOHR has documented the death of 47,512 civilians under torture in regime’s prisons since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, all documented by names: 47,109 men and young men, 339 children under the age of eighteen, and 64 women over the age of eighteen.

 

Reliable sources have informed the Syrian Observatory that the number of people killed, executed and/or died in regime prisons exceeded 104,000 people. Over 83% of the total death toll were killed and/or died in these prisons between May 2013 and October 2015. SOHR sources have also confirmed that more than 30,000 detainees were killed in the notorious prison of Saydnaya alone, while the second largest percentage of killing occurred in the Air Force Intelligence detention facilities or prisons.

 

According to SOHR statistics, nearly 152,713 people, including 41,312, are still detained in regime prisons. Furthermore, the number of terrorism cases has reached 102,453 in the same period.

 

In light of these heinous crimes and gross violations the people of Syria have subjected to, we, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), renew our appeals to the international community to  investigate, identify and disclose all crimes violations committed in areas controlled by regime forces, as well as by opposition rebel factions, and other actors. Various harrowing types of torture, including the tying of victims to metal seats and electrifying victims with electric sticks until they lose consciousness or die, have been documented in earlier reports.

 

Among 169 countries, Syria is ranked in the 154th place on the freedom list, not a surprise especially since the country has been ruled by the same family since Al-Baath Party seized power in 1963. Since then, arbitrary arrests have been sanctioned and become the norm, while political prisoners tried under supervision of intelligence service in the state security’s courthouse. Accordingly, torture remains the predominant method used in these prisons to extract confessions of crimes or violations prisoners did not commit. On the other hand, observers concerned with protecting human rights have been denied access to these prisons. While no reforms in the terms of human rights and politics and democracy have been adopted, with the Syrian regime refusing to permit international and local human rights organizations to work in areas under its control . In addition, the Syrian regime has prohibited all human rights activities/activism and tortured  human rights activists working for undercover organizations.

 

Similarly, the Syrian regime has prohibited political opponents from travelling abroad, and it imprisoned all members of specific organizations, while opponents are being prosecuted by the state security service. Furthermore, the media, the corner stone of any functioning and free society, have been tightly controlled and heavily censored and can only serve the regime.

 

On the other hand, the Kurds have been deprived of using their mother language, celebrating cultural feasts and practicing their most basic rights, as they have remained one of the most repressed communities of Syrian society, along with minority religious groups.

 

Despite all these violations and crimes, some of which could be classified as war crimes, humanitarian organizations have been unable to reach the areas where they have been committed, neither the Syrian regime nor the opposition has adopted serious and workable strategy to disclose the real perpetrators of these crimes. Also, no serious procedures are taken to start investigations with the aim to prosecute and punish criminals.

 

For the past ten years, SOHR has been all along monitoring and disclosing most violations by security and military forces which have been involved in countless massacres, indiscriminate killings and incidents of extreme violence.

 

Freedom of public expression has not been excluded from violations in Syria, where severe restrictions have been imposed on the freedom of the press and media. While the internet was deliberately interrupted in the areas which experienced the first spark of the Syrian Revolution so that the protestors could not circulate and share videos and pictures documenting gross violations, and repressive measures and destruction at that time. In addition, security services restrained civilians’ movement and public assembly.

 

Syrians refused to bow to these practices and continued their peaceful protests, before some parties exploited the situations and worked on arming rebel elements; this, in turn, led to arguably the most destructive war of the 21st century. The protestors have called for freedom, equality and dignity, the rights which the international human rights law and other charter and accord have called for. Syrian people insisted on having genuine and transparent elections and reaching a peaceful transitional of power through a constitution that would respect human rights, combat corruption, and pave the way for eliminating oppression.

 

On the other hand, the latest report issued by the World Food Programme has confirmed that families in Syria are struggling to survive deepening hunger crises with the conflicting powers in Syria adhering to the option of war, while the situation on the ground is expected to deteriorate further if suspension of food assistance continues, especially with the current stifling economic hardship. With the Syrian currency losing its value, 80 percent of Syrian people are in the grip of hunger and suffer from health and psychical disorders, as employees get monthly salaries of nearly 20 USD  at a time when a food basket  for a four-member family costs 140 USD in light of the inflation and prohibitively high prices. It is also worth noting that 80 percent of Syrian people depend on humanitarian aid, according to humanitarian organizations linked tothe United Nations.

 

In the meantime, statistics portray a real catastrophe in terms of  human rights violations in Syria, while international actors and major powers seem indifferent to the tragedy of the Syrians and care only about achieving narrow interests.

 

SOHR, as a human rights organization, call upon relevant bodies to create an independent mechanism to disclose the fate and whereabouts of thousands of missing and forcibly disappeared. We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), would like to stress the need to identify the remains of unidentified bodies and to provide support to their bereaved families. We also call on  the warring powers to put an immediate end to the bloodshed, comply with the UN resolutions and respect human rights principles. Finally, we call for the involvement of the International Criminal Court in bringing to justice all those who have blood on their hands and all those violated human rights in Syria, no matter their identity or affiliation.

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