Syrian Network for Human Rights: The Alleged Passages Announced by Government Forces are for Killing and Disappearance

Aleppo’s Eastern Neighborhoods Passages will have the same Outcome as Passages in Old Homs
On 27 July, government forces and its allies, on one side, and Syrian Democratic Forces (Primarily consists of Democratic Union Party forces – a branch for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) on the other side have completely enclosed the neighborhoods of Eastern Aleppo after government forces took control of Bani Zaid neighborhood while the Syrian Democratic Forces seized control of Al Sakan Al Shababi neighborhood. Since the beginning of July, Aleppo has fallen under a tightened siege as the Syrian regime and the Syrian Democratic Forces (in Al-Shaikh Maqsoud neighborhood) have taken absolute control of Castillo Road. We talkie about the siege of approximately 300,000 civilians in a previous report.
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VDC: Tokhar Attack left 83 civilians dead, WARNING (GRAPHIC IMAGES)

WARNING (GRAPHIC IMAGES)
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The attack on Tokhar village in the city of Manbij – Aleppo

Air raids by jet fighters of the International Coalition, led by the United States, have already caused 513 civilian casualties in Syria, according to the Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC). Civilian deaths are On 83 the result of 15 verified air raids on Tokhar village, located some 17 kilometers north of Manbij city, in the rural area Hotels west of Aleppo on Tuesday 19 July 2016.Read more …
The attack on the village in the city of Altokhar Manbej – Aleppo:
Toll rising  civilian casualties in Syria because of the strikes of theinternational coalition led by theUnited States to 513 civilians since 23 September 2014 , according tocenter figures documenting abuses in Syria . Has been documenting thefall of the 83 civilians dead and dozens wounded , some of them still until the moment in a critical condition from the third hour and ahalf from dawn on Tuesday, corresponding to July 19, 2016 ,where the subsidiary of theinternational coalition forces aircraft carrying out more than 15 air strike on the center and the area around the village of Altokhar, 17 km north ofManbej city in the countryside west of Aleppo. Other report …
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Vocativ: Hunting Syrian War Crimes From 5,000 Miles Away

By Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

Google Earth, USB sticks, and social media have helped a group of aspiring attorneys track atrocities in Syria—from a campus in Syracuse 

Each image bears witness to atrocity. Snapped on cell phones and other digital devices, they are uploaded from the war-torn corners of Syria each day. There are leveled neighborhoods and butchered bodies. There are the faces of those who have succumbed to torture, hunger, and other deprivation.

“The hardest pictures to look at are the ones taken of children that are victims of warplane shelling,” said Zachary Lucas, a third year student at Syracuse University College of Law. “Those are tough.”

For the last five years, a group of students like Lucas from this rust belt institution have sifted through a torrent of images and first-hand accounts captured by civilians and activists in Syria, much of it posted online or disseminated through social media. Using this material and other sources, they have worked meticulously to create the world’s most comprehensive database of alleged war crimes committed throughout the conflict. The grim compendium topped 12,000 documented incidents at the end of last year.

“It’s absolutely mind boggling,” said David Crane, a law professor at the college and advisor for what’s been dubbed the Syrian Accountability Project. The work of Crane’s students aims to serve as a sweeping trial package, a legal record that may one day assist a tribunal or international court in convicting those who committed war crimes against the Syrian people. Among those defendants might be Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, he said.

Is that even possible?

Crane, a former chief prosecutor for the United Nations, has reason to believe so. He’s accomplished something no other living lawyer has: he successfully indicted a former head of state. In 2003, Crane charged Liberia’s Charles Taylor for his role in the death of thousands during Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s. Taylor, a warlord who was once among Africa’s most powerful dictators, was eventually sentenced to 50 years in prison, making him the first former head of state convicted since Germany’s Nuremberg trials after World War II.

It was because of Crane’s work in Sierra Leone that the Syrian National Council reached out to him in 2011. The Council, an opposition group formed against the Syrian government, wanted to know what kind of judicial measures could be taken against the Assad regime, whose crackdown against Arab protestors earlier that year had escalated into an armed conflict. Crane, who now teaches international law, decided that his students could investigate and quantify the atrocities being committed on a mass scale. The project was born.

Since then, as many as 50 law students, along with volunteer analysts, have monitored the war around the clock. Much of the work follows the system Crane created to build a case against Taylor and his henchmen, he said. At the center is a crime matrix that contains verifiable incidents in Syria that could be prosecuted under the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, or Syrian Penal Law.

Through December 2015, they had amassed 12,242 documented war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian government as well as those fighting the regime.

With Taylor’s case, Crane had to hunt down witnesses and evidence on the ground in West Africa, years after the crimes took place. His current students on the other hand, working 5,000 miles away from Syria, receive tips and reports in real time from sources on the ground, as well as citizens and activists who publish accounts on websites, Twitter, and Facebook.

Often, thanks to the ubiquity of smart phones and other technology, witnesses can now provide photo or video documentation of a regime barrel bomb ripping through a hospital or the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack. In one of the most stunning cases of criminality to come out of the war, a military photographer smuggled 55,000 photos depicting the systematic torture of more than 10,000 prisoners by the Assad regime using USB sticks that were hidden inside his shoes.

“It’s a digital tsunami,” Crane said. “We have terabytes of information coming out of the Levant region.”

At times, the Syrian Accountability project has leveraged other tech tools to build evidence for an alleged crime. On multiple occasions, it has used Google Earth images to verify the destruction of neighborhoods or the existence of mass graves. Google has also been instrumental in locating the presence of military bases or units implicated in a particular event.

The deluge of digital data presents one of the biggest challenges for the project, students say. Lucas estimates that as much as 95 percent of the tips they’ve received or generated from sources would be inadmissible in a court of law. If they were to authenticate or verify every piece of possible evidence, they would run the risk of an information overload.

But their matrix serves as an important historical record. It is an index of inhumanity leveled against the Syrian people, one the project has already shared with the United Nations, International Criminal Court, and U.S. State Department. The data decisively shows that the Assad regime has committed the lion’s share of atrocities in the conflict: nearly two-thirds of the documented war crimes, from indiscriminate shelling to torture, have been carried out by the Syrian government and its allies.

But the project’s findings also reveal that every armed group in the war has played a part in the bloodshed that, since it began, has left more than 250,000 people dead and displaced millions. In addition to the scores of brutal acts attributed to Islamist militant groups like ISIS and Nusra, rebel factions, including the United States-backed Free Syrian Army, are responsible for hundreds more. Another 2,300 purported war crimes committed by those fighting Assad forces—nearly a fifth of the total—remain unattributable, which underscores the chaotic nature of the conflict.

Through February 2015, the project tallied nearly 42,000 incidents by all parties that involved the use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons, civilian shootings, detentions, field executions, kidnappings, mutilations, indiscriminate shelling, violence against women, and torture, according to figures provided to Vocativ.

“It’s important to emphasize that, across the board, these horrific things are happening,” said Peter Levrant, a former Syracuse law student, who served as the executive director for the project. “At this point, it’s really hard to say that any one party is completely innocent.”

Students have also managed to conduct more granular analyses through their research. For example, Levrant and others published an 88-page white paper in March that examined alleged incidents of rape against women during the conflict. The study found that out of 142 reported incidents, the Assad regime and its affiliates were responsible for nearly 90 percent of them. More than a third of these incidents happened while the victim was detained or imprisoned. Others occurred during home raids and kidnappings.

Despite the ongoing effort to hold Syria’s various armed groups accountable, there is no guarantee that the project’s findings will be used in future criminal cases. But Crane is hopeful, believing that ultimately a path to justice will be found.

“Whether this happens next year or 10 years from now it will still be valid,” he said.  “When politicians decide to do something, we’ll be ready. We’ll hand it to them, all 20,000 pages.”

(This article was originally published on Vocative and can be found here.)

5188 Civilians Killed and 3631 Others Arrested since the Cessation of Hostilities Statement

A Detailed Account of Five months, the Syrian and Russian Regimes are Responsible for 71% of all Violations

The statistics in this report, which is published by SNHR, are based on the Network’s monthly reports. These reports draw upon a daily and cumulative documentation of daily incidents throughout the period of time between the commencement of the Cessation of Hostilities statement on 27 February 2016 and 27 July 2016 where the report records that 71% of all the violations in the five-month period since the commencement of the Cessation of Hostilities statement were perpetrated by the Russian and Syrian regimes.
The report notes that the Russian authorities announced that Russian forces would withdraw from Syria.

The withdrawal, however, was only words on paper as Russian forces are still bombing the various Syrian governorates using a wide range of weapons including internationally-prohibited weapons such as cluster munition. As it is well known, Russian forces are fighting side by side with the Syrian regime and, therefore, it is a main party in the conflict and have been involved in tens of war crimes. At the same time, the Russian regime was a party to the statement of Cessation of Hostilities and a party in the political process as well which is one of the most major paradoxes in the Syrian tragedy according to the report.
The report anticipates, based on the data it includes, that the American-Russian agreement to coordinate against Al Nussra Front, Al Qaeda branch in Syria, and ISIS will fail as well because the agreement repeats the same mistakes that were made in the Cessation of Hostilities statement. Russian forces will keep targeting civilians and armed opposition factions and claims that they were Al Nussra Front. Nonetheless, the terrorist sectarian militias that are loyal to the Syrian regime aren’t targeted amid an utter lack of any monitoring or accountability mechanisms.

Fadel Abdul Ghani, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“The Syrian people can’t picture that there is an ongoing political process and at the same times barrel bombs are being dropped over them in addition to the arrest, siege, and displacement. There has to be a complete ceasefire and only then the political process will have solid grounds. We hope that this happens before the beginning of the upcoming elections in the US. Otherwise, there will be long months of killing and displacement awaiting the lone Syrian people”
The report documents the killing of 5188 civilians including 1016 children and 694 women during the period of time covered in the report. Government forces killed 3055 civilians including 483 children and 359 women while Russian forces killed 417 civilians including 113 children and 63 women. Additionally, 552 civilians were killed by ISIS including 98 children and 78 women whereas Al Nussra Front killed 17 civilians including two children and one woman. Also, the number of victims killed at the hands of the international coalition forces is 305 civilians including 130 children and 53 women whereas Self-management forces killed 184 civilians including 17 children and eight women. Furthermore, 392 civilians including 102 children and 92 women were killed by the various armed opposition factions.

Moreover, the report records that 3631 individuals were arrested including 113 children and 135 women. Government forces arrested 2517 individuals including 83 children and 114 women while ISIS arrested 585 individuals including four children and five women. Also, Al Nussra Front arrested 97 individuals including one child whereas Self-management forces arrested 168 individuals including 19 children and 12 women. Also, 264 individuals including four women and six children were arrested by armed opposition factions.
According to the report, 152 massacres were perpetrated in the period of time covered in this report where government forces perpetrated 102 massacres, Russian forces perpetrated 19 massacres, ISIS perpetrated 12 massacres, the international coalition forces perpetrated seven massacres, and six massacres were perpetrated by armed opposition factions in addition to six massacre that were perpetrated by unidentified groups.
The report highlights the attacks against vital civil facilities which amounted to 440 incidents of attacks including 275 by government forces and 100 by Russian forces. Additionally, 25 attacks against vital civil facilities were carried out by armed opposition factions, 19 by ISIS, six by international coalition forces, and one by Self-management forces in addition to 14 incidents of attacks that were carried out by unidentified groups.

The report calls on the government of Russia and the USA to investigate the incidents included, to deal with violations seriously, and to map out the locations of Al Nussra Front and ISIS rather than targeting all areas and neighborhoods under the pretext of combating terrorism.
Furthermore, the report demands that double-standard policies must end as the terrorist groups that are fighting side by side with the Syrian regime, which are mostly of a Shiite and sectarian nature, must be fought in addition to the extremist Islamic groups.
The report emphasizes that the Russian government must immediately withdraw from Syria and not side with the Syrian regime.
Finally, the report calls on for the Syrian case to be referred to the International Criminal Court and for all involved to be held accountable, Also, peace and security must be instilled in Syria and the norm of “Responsibility to Protect” must be implemented in order to save the lives, history, and arts of the Syrian people from being destroyed, stolen, or ruined.

(The full report can be viewed here.)

Justice and Peace: A False Dichotomy

Although the Syria peace talks have stalled in recent months, closed-door discussions continue between the United States and Russia to resolve the current impasse. As these discussions go on, it has become increasingly clear that criminal justice is not a priority for either the UN Special Envoy or the international brokers. Even though amnesties have not been discussed publicly, there is a high likelihood that they will be included if a final deal is ever reached. In fact, as the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) wrote last year, amnesties are a common component of peace agreements, taking many different forms, ranging from conditional amnesties (as in South Africa) to wholesale blanket amnesties (as in Lebanon). Broad, unconditional amnesties, however, have increasingly been rejected by both international and national courts, and the International Committee of the Red Cross has gone so far to assert that the prohibition on blanket amnesties for those most responsible for gross violations of human rights constitutes customary international law and must be adhered to by all states.

In reality, however, these court decisions and expert opinions have not seemed to have much influence on peace negotiations, particularly those in the Middle East. Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his aides, for example, received blanket amnesties in a deal mediated by the Gulf Cooperation Council and supported by the international community. Similarly in Syria, it seems as though President Bashar al-Assad will receive some sort of amnesty based on how the negotiations have prioritized peace over justice to date. So what does international practice say about the peace vs. justice dichotomy and what can Syrians who seek justice for their grievances expect from a future peace agreement negotiated under the current framework?

Traditionally, justice has been seen as an impediment to peace, but there is a growing recognition that peace agreements that do not address grievances often lead to renewed conflict. Studies have shown that countries which utilize a combination of amnesties and prosecutions are more likely to have lasting peace than countries which only utilize one mechanism. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the foundation of the modern notion that justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide must not be sacrificed for any reason, and the Inter-American Court as well as national courts in Argentina and, most recently, El Salvador, have struck down amnesty laws that shielded those most responsible for war crimes from accountability.

In reality, there must be a balance of peace and justice. The question is how to leverage amnesties to get important concessions while still ensuring that those most responsible are tried. In prolonged and massive conflicts like Syria, it is quite difficult to hold all perpetrators accountable due to the scale of violations. According to Daniel Serwer, SJAC’s newest Board member and Director of the Conflict Management Program at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, “It is impossible to prosecute everyone in a situation as fraught and violent as Syria. It should be up to Syrians to decide whom they want to prosecute, based on the evidence available, the capacity of whatever judicial system is used and the nature administrative measures like vetting and lustration that are less taxing on the judiciary, which is bound to be weakened after a ferocious war.” The trick is to create the conditions for peace within the political agreement while also ensuring society and victims feel as though their grievances have been acknowledged and will be addressed.

Even if justice mechanisms are included in a final peace agreement, the timeline will likely disappoint most Syrians. According to Serwer, “Justice is always slower than people like. Only rough justice can be done quickly, but that can lead to revenge, autocracy, and renewal of conflict.” Examples from other post-conflict or post-authoritarian countries demonstrate that it can often take years, if not decades, for perpetrators to see the inside of a courtroom. Blanket amnesties can further delay the already lengthy justice process. It takes time for national courts in post-conflict countries to rebuild and gain sufficient capacity, legitimacy, and independence to review and overturn blanket amnesty laws. In Chile, the 1978 amnesty law passed by the military regime of Augusto Pinochet was in place for 20 years before the Supreme Court struck it down, opening the opportunity for prosecutions. Since then, 1,000 cases have been opened, and by 2014, 75 of Pinochet’s secret police were sentenced to prison time. Similar examples can be found in Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Uruguay, and Peru. Outside of Latin America, Uganda’s Supreme Court recently ruled on its 2000 amnesty law, which granted immunity to fighters and commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The court found that the law exempted grave international crimes, allowing LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo to be prosecuted for violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. While these instances represent a promising trend, their global impact has so far been limited and will likely not influence the outcome of the Syrian conflict.

Amnesties, specifically conditional amnesties, will never be completely dispensable, particularly in large-scale conflicts with numerous perpetrators. Stability requires a peace agreement that the parties to the conflict consent to sign and implement. In turn, transitional justice requires a measure of stability to be possible. Thus, transitional justice and peace are really two sides of the same coin. Transitional justice relies on peace, and long-term peace relies on the type of reconciliation that only a holistic transitional justice process can provide. For Syria, it will be important for the UN and international mediators to promote a balance of justice and amnesties within a final peace agreement. It will require sacrifices and tough choices, but ignoring justice completely, as in Yemen, is not a feasible option.

For more information or to provide feedback, please contact SJAC at info@syriaaccountability.org.

(This article was originally featured on the Syria Justice & Accountability Centre’s website and can be found here.)

57 Malawian Children Rescued from Trafficking

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LILONGWE, Malawi – 57 children were rescued from alleged traffickers in South Africa.  Three Malawi men had taken the 57 from Malawi to South Africa in a truck.  The children were discovered when South African authorities opened the truck up and two children fell out.  Officers pulled over the truck in the north west providence after it was speeding.  The children inside were all undocumented and ranged in age from 11 to 21; 18 were girls and 39 were boys.

malawi

The 57 children that were rescued and the truck they were transported in (Photo Courtesy of Nyasa Times)

The three men accused of trafficking the children appeared in Rustenburg Regional Magistrate’s Court on 57 counts of human trafficking.  Their case is postponed until September 13th.  The children were taken to the Department of Social Development and will be under the care of the department until things can be sorted out.

This isn’t the first time that officers have the stopped the endangerment of children in the area.  About a week ago in an area east of Johannesburg officers rescued 16 girls between the ages of 15 and 18 from prostitution.  In the case of the 57 children it was unclear the reason the children were being trafficked.  Officers equated the children’s transportation as similar to goats.

South African authorities will be working with their Malawi counterparts in order to further investigate the three men responsible for the transportation of the 57 children.

For further information, please see:

Eyewitness News – 57 Children Rescued from Suspected Human Traffickers– 26 July 2016

Nyasa Times – 57 kids trafficked from Malawi found at back of window-less delivery truck: Rescued in South Africa – 27 July 2016

Times Live – Police Rescue 57 Children Trafficked from Malawi – 26 July 2016

Guilty Verdict for Farmers in Paraguay

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

ASUNCIÓN, PARAGUAY—Skepticism of the Paraguayan justice system grows after the sentencing of 11 farmers to prison following the deaths of 6 police officers in the Curuguaty massacre. The sentences ranged from 4 to 35 years in prison.

U.N. commissioner for Human Rights expresses his concerns following the conclusion of the Curuguaty massacre trial. (Photo Courtesy of UN News Centre)

On July 18 the formal guilty verdict was read at the Paraguay Palace of Justice. Due to fears of unruliness the government dispatched 1500 police officers to the palace. 500 individuals, including families of the farmers and activists were in attendance to hear the verdict. The guilty verdict comes after a year long trial that solely focused on the deaths of the 6 police officers and disregarded the deaths of several farmers. An investigation in their death has not been opened by the Attorney General despite the demand for an investigation from both families and activists. Since the massacre, several organizations have called attention to irregularities in the investigation. In 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee implored Paraguay to allow an “immediate, independent and impartial investigation.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zid Ra’ad Al Hussein, released a statement expressing his concerns by stating, “The conviction of 11 peasants in the Curuguaty case following a trial that allegedly did not respect judicial guarantees is deeply troubling.” He continued by adding that, “I’m also deeply concerned by the fact that, up to now, the deaths of 11 peasants, killed in the same incident, have not been investigated by Paraguayan authorities, nor have the allegations that some were summarily executed after being subjected to torture and other human rights violations.”

The Curuguaty Massacre occurred when police forces were sent to the Morumbi property to evict farmers who were occupying 2000 acres of land. The property was given to Blas N. Riquelme, a politician and businessman during the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner. During his dictatorship, land was given to the military and political elite. Farmers in Paraguay have long voiced their demand for land reform—about 80% of the agricultural land belongs to 2.5% of the population.

For more information, please see:

Fox Latino—Paraguay Police out in Force for Curuguaty Verdict—18 July 2016

Reuters—U.N. Rights Boss ‘Troubled’ by Conviction of Farmers in Paraguay Land Killings Case—20 July 2016

UN News Centre—U.N. Rights Chief ‘Deeply Troubled’ by Conviction of Land Reform Activists in Paraguay—20 July 2016

Belarusian Journalist Murdered in Car Bombing

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine —  Prominent Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed this past week after an explosive device placed on his car detonated in Kiev, Ukraine.  Sheremet worked for the news reporting website Ukrainska Pravda, and was traveling to host a morning radio show at the radio station Radio Vesti when the explosive was detonated.   Ukrainska Pravda is a respected site known for its tendency to cover media topics relating to corruption.

The car Sheremet was driving exploded on a main road in Kiev, Ukraine (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Investigators suspect a homemade explosion device attached to the bottom of the car with 400-600 grams of a substance similar to TNT was detonated via remote control.  The explosion itself occurred about a half mile away from a popular protest site in Ukraine.  At the time of the explosion, Sheremet was driving his partner Olena Pritula’s car.  Pritula is the owner of Ukrainska Pravda, leaving police to wonder whether Sheremet was actually the target of the explosion.

Many speculate that Sheremet was targeted because of his line of work.  Sheremet was one of several well-known journalists who moved from Russia to Ukraine, where restrictions on the media are known to be looser than they are in Russia.  Sheremet was previously jailed for his critical reports regarding political oppression against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and was known to be an advocate for independent media in Ukraine.  As an expert in political corruption, Sheremet was widely known for his criticism of the Kremlin and mistakes made by Ukraine in its 2014 revolution and ensuing separation from Russia.

Police are investigating the possibility that the attack was an attempt by Russia to destabilize Ukraine, however the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced this notion.  The Ministry labeled Sheremet as a “known and respected journalist in Russia and a top professional.”  Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Vladimir Putin, stated that the Kremlin was “seriously disturbed” by the attack, and expressed his hopes for a “rapid and impartial investigation.”

Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko, however, is “not excluding the possibility of some foreign interest” in the explosion, and hints at the involvement of Russia in the killing.  Poroshenko has requested the assistance of foreign agencies from the United States and the European Union to assist in the investigation.

 

For more information, please see:

BBC — Pavel Sheremet: Murdered Journalist Buried in Belarus — 23 July 2016

NBC — Car Bomb Murder of Pavel Sheremet Dashes Hopes in Post-Maidan Ukraine — 23 July 2016

CNN — Journalist Pavel Sheremet Killed in Kiev — 20 July 2016

The Guardian — Car Bomb Kills Pioneering Journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kiev — 20 July 2016

NY Times — Pavel Sheremet, Journalist in Ukraine, is Killed in Car Bombing — 20 July 2016

SYRIA DEEPLY – Weekly Update – July 23, 2016

 

The Basics · The Government · ISIS · The Opposition · Global Players

 WEEKLY UPDATE

July 23, 2016

Dear Readers,
Welcome to the weekly Syria Deeply newsletter. We’ve rounded up the most important stories and developments about Syria and the Syrians in order to bring you valuable news and analysis. But first, here is a brief overview of what happened this week:

Northern Syria was the site of some of of the country’s most violent battlefields this week, and cities under siege saw an increase pro-government forces advances as civilians and opposition forces in the area came under heavy aerial bombardment.

The opposition-held eastern part of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, officially came under siege over the weekend. The only supply route into the eastern areas of the city, Castello Road, came under regime fire on July 7, but forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian air power, seized the actual road over the weekend.

Food and fuel supplies are running critically low and besieged areas have not received any aid since the beginning of this month, according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The latest Syrian government advance on Aleppo and subsequent retaliation from several opposition forces over the last three months have killed at least 955 civilians, including 219 children, and injured some 6,000 others, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The situation is devastating and overwhelming. We hear that dozens of civilians are being killed every day and scores more injured from shells, mortars and rockets. The bombing is constant. The violence is threatening hundreds of thousands of people’s lives, homes and livelihoods,” Marianne Gassers, head of the delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said in a statement.

In northern Aleppo province, along the Turkish border, the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces pushed forward in their ground offensive against ISIS militants in the city of Manbij. The SDF has been fighting to push ISIS out of Manbij since May but this week saw a notable advancement in the operation. On Tuesday, the SDF was able to seize an ISIS headquarters in the town that had been set up in a hospital. By the end of the week, the SDF issued a 48-hour ultimatum for ISIS fighters to clear the area “in order protect civilian lives and property.”

The U.S. came under fire for its aerial bombardments over Manbij this week. At least 56 civilians, including children, were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike over Manbij on Tuesday. At least 167 civilians have been killed in coalition airstrikes in Manbij since the coalition began its operation against ISIS there in May, according to the Observatory.

Opposition forces south of Manbij, west of the capital Damascus have not had the same successes as those in Manbij. Forces loyal to Assad launched a major offensive this week on the rebel-held and government-besieged city of Darayya.

Last month Darayya received the first aid delivery it has seen in the last four years of siege, but opposition forces said the new government offensive began soon after the humanitarian drop, preventing any additional supplies from reaching the city. Since the start of July, some 700 barrel bombs reportedly hit Darayya.

The week ended with a United Nations call for several, local 48-hour cease-fires across Syria to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries into besieged and hard-to-reach areas. As of Friday, none of Syria’s many warring factions had agreed to the truce.

Weekly Highlights:

Sowing Hope and Weeding Out Siege Profiteers
As sieges have spread across Syria, people in the besieged areas have discovered a secret weapon that’s difficult to detect and almost impossible to defeat: seeds. In many of Syria’s besieged areas, people are turning to urban gardening to make up for the lack of humanitarian aid and exorbitant cost of black-market food.

Seedlings in old food ration tins from the World Food Program. Amrha
Economics Trumps Politics in Syria’s Proxy War
Instead of driving a wedge between regional players, the Syrian conflict’s duration and intractability have forced proxy powers to prioritize cooperation over rivalry for their wider interests, according to Middle East analyst Sharif Nashashibi

From left, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Feridun Sinirlioglu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Arabia Adel al-Jubeir and Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov meet in in Vienna. Carlo Allegri/Associated Press

My Days in Damascus Entry 1: Contagious Fear
In her first diary entry for Syria Deeply, Farah, a young woman living in Syria’s capital city, discusses the daily struggles of trying to maintain a normal social and professional life in a country where residents are plagued by fear.

An oil lamp in Bab Sharqi, one of seven ancient gates in Damascus’ old city. Wisal Ahdab/ Wikimedia Commons

Additional Reading:

For new reporting and analysis every weekday, visit www.newsdeeply.com/syria.
You can reach our team with any comments or suggestions at info@newsdeeply.org.

Top image: A child holds up a picture of a Pokemon character that reads “I am from Syria… Save me!” Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office

Turkish Government Arrests Thousands After Failed Coup

By Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey — Following a failed military coup, the Turkish government has arrested thousands of officials across all levels of society for suspected involvement. Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, stated that reinstating the death sentence was possible for suspected “plotters.”

Military Personnel Detained After Failed Military Coup (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

After the attempted coup was thwarted last Saturday morning, the Turkish government has arrested or detained more than 10,000 military personnel. A portion of those arrested were soldiers directly involved in the failed coup. This has also included 118 generals and admirals.

Along with the military more than 50,000 civil service officials have been arrested, detained, fired, or suspended. Directly following the coup, approximately 3,000 judges and prosecutors were detained or fired. Another 9,000 Ministry of Interior personnel have been suspended. This purge has also reached the education sector with 21,000 teachers having their licenses revoked and 1,500 deans being asked to resign. Multiple broadcasting stations have also had their licenses revoked.

President Erdogan has vowed to punish all responsible for the failed military coup and wouldn’t rule out the death penalty. The death penalty was abolished in 2004 as Turkey made a bid to join the European Union. President Erdogan said if the people wanted the death penalty to return and the Turkish Parliament passed the legislation, then he would uphold the will of the people.

President Erdogan also imposed a three month state of emergency. He said the purpose of the state of emergency was to restore order and capture and punish all involved in the coup. Under the Turkish Constitution, Erdogan would gain the powers to suspend fundamental rights of freedom so long as it doesn’t violate international law. The Turkish government is also going to suspend its participation in the European Convention of Human Rights.

Many within Turkey and around the world have expressed concern with the purge arguing that Erdogan is using the coup as a way to eliminate opposition and consolidate power. A local chef at a restaurant in Istanbul, said Erodgan is setting a trap and will use the coup as a way to gain more power. The United States of America has expressed concern with the expansiveness of the purge particularly against non-military officials. America called on Turkey to preserve the rule of law and democracy. The European Union has stated that if the death penalty were to return, then Turkey would not be allowed to join the European Union.

Erdogan was elected to President in 2014. After winning 52 percent of the vote many argued election fraud. Shortly after the election, Erdogan attempted controversial constitutional amendments to give more powers to the president. Some have argued the purge of the judicial officials after the coup was to replace them with supporters of his constitutional changes.

The attempted coup occurred early last Saturday morning with a faction of the military blocking bridges leading to Istanbul. President Erdogan called on the people to fight off the coup. Later Saturday morning the coup had been defeated with the soldiers involved laying down arms and surrendering. The coup left 300 people dead and more than 1,000 wounded.

Turkey has had multiple military coups it it’s brief history as a country. There were successful military coups occurring in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. The political divide within Turkey pits the secular and western military class against an increasingly conservative and popularly elected Islamist political parties in the country such as President Erdogan’s party, Justice and Development Party.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Turkey coup attempt: Erdogan signals death penalty return — 19 July 2016

CNN — Turkey declares three-month state of emergency — 20 July 2016

CBS News — Thousands jailed after failed Turkey coup — 20 July 2016

NBC News — Turkey’s Parliament to Give Erdogan Sweeping New Powers as Crackdown Widens — 21 July 2016

Reuters — Turkey says no return to past repression despite state of emergency — 21 July 2016

Washington Post — Turkey rounds up thousands of suspected participants in coup attempt — 16 July 2016

Violations Documentation Center Ghouta Office Attacked

Damascus Ghouta, July 22nd, 2016
A Syrian government jet fighter attacked one of the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) in Syria offices in Damascus Ghouta with two missiles in the afternoon on Saturday, July 22, 2016. According to confirmed evidence, the attack occurred during an attack on civilian areas in Doma city in eastern Ghota. The attack led to considerable material damage and the destruction of the office.
VDC office director, Thaer Hijazi, mentioned that “Doma city and the rest of eastern Ghota cities are under a heavy attack for a week now, where the frequency was noticeably increased during the last week. Yesterday the main city market was attacked resulting in nine deaths, while today the attack started at noon and in the beginning focused on the city outer neighbourhoods but moved to the city centre later.
The total number of attacks today was twelve, resulting in 70 injuries and 4 deaths. In the afternoon, one of the VDC offices was attacked by two missiles launched from Syrian government jet fighters. The attacked building hosts other civil organization offices like the Local Development Office, The Hurras Network, an office for Rising for Freedom, and an office for the Syrian Non-Violence Movement. The attack did not result in any human casualties but considerable material damage and the destruction of the office.”
The VDC strongly condemns this bombing, and it considers it to be in line with the other systematic and continues hostile activities carried out by the Syrian government against the civilians in Ghota area. The VDC ensures the continuity of its independent legal work in documenting the violations against human rights and the International Humanitarian Law in the Ghota and the rest of Syria from all parties to ensure the fulfilment of its main objective of bringing about justice for the victims and hold perpetrators for the war crimes accountable.

8300 Civilians in Immense Danger in Daraya, Syria

Daraya, July 21st 2016
Five thousand women and children are in immense danger in the city of Daraya, they are part of the 8,300 civilians left in the city according to the Violations Documentation Centre (VDC). In January 26th 2016 the Syrian government armed forces managed to complete the siege on the city extending by this the systematic deprivation of food, medicine and resources, forced on the city since 2012. Evidence based on direct testimonies, Darya local council, and VDC’s documentation members on the ground, show that the Syrian government uses the siege as a mean to penalize civilians in the areas outside its control.

Daraya is 30 square Kilometre and in 2007 used to be the home for more than 250 thousand people, now 90% of all the buildings and infrastructure in the city has been completely ruined with little over 8000 civilians left in the city. After much pressure from the international community, in June this year, the UN finally managed to enter Daraya for the first time since 2012. With only 14 trucks, half full, containing 480 food parcels, fewer medicine and medical kits, and other materials. To people’s dismay, the Syrian jet-fighters, within less than ten hours, attacked the city with 23 barrel-bombs targeting the wheat fields (Video). This indicate the clear Syrian government direction to enforce the siege any not allowing any relief to enter the city. And regardless of the ceasefire in Syria that took effect on February 27 – as part of a negotiated deal, based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 in December 2015- between May 12th and May 25th, VDC with Darya local council was able to document 60 missiles, 508 mortar shell launched from the government armed forces on Daraya.

VDC condemns penalizing civilians by the Syrian government and “The use of starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare” which, in addition to the killing, now puts the lives of more than eight thousand at immense danger and inhuman condition. This is a clear human rights violation and the siege with its systematic deprivation amounts to war crimes.

VDC appeals to all humanitarian and relief organizations, world governments, and the United Nations to pressure the Syrian government in order to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139 and 2254 to ease the aid delivery to Syrians, insure the respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights, and provide safe passages for civilians in the city.

For further information, please contact VDC. A Hamzah
At email: a.hamzah@vdc-sy.info, Tel: +44 7985794393

Ledesma employees Injured in Confrontation with Police

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—Clashes ensued on Thursday when Ledesma company employees were injured by tear gas and rubber bullets fired by the Jujuy police and military forces. Wmployees protested outside the Ledesma company compound—the largest sugar mill in Argentina located in the northern providence of Jujuy.

Employees and the local police clash during protest. (Photo Courtesy by Telesur)

Ledesma employees are currently on strike and as union members they voted to protest against the company’s refusal to improve work conditions and to increase their salaries by 43%. They sought the salary increase in order to counter act depreciation caused by inflation. Approximately 250 workers were demonstrating in front of the Ledesma company compound when they were met by the company’s private security. An estimated 200 police officers and border guards were called to the area. Immediately the police riot squad began to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at the employees. The police separated protestors from one another and corralled about 80 employees within company grounds. Employees claim that the police prevented city ambulance from entering the area and treating the injured.

Following the clash images and video of the violence went viral on social media. Union leaders and lawmakers denounced the actions by the local police. Victoria Donda, the chair of the Human Rights Commission of the Lower House of Congress stated in a press release, “The institutional violence is incredible and unacceptable. These who are practicing their constitutional right to protest, shouldn’t have been repressed under any circumstance.” The Center for Legal and Social studies called upon the governor of the region, Gerardo Morales to prevent another situation similar to the repression endured by the employees from occurring. The Ledesma company released a statement in which they attempted to downplay the situation and claimed that the employees illegally trespassed onto their property.

Since the clash, unions and political activists in the region have joined the Ledesma company employees in solidarity and halted traffic on the National highway route 34. The union has announced more protests are to follow. Jujuy has been plagued by similar clashes between governmental forces and its citizens.

For more information, please see:

Politica Argentina—Brutal Repression en Jujuy Contra Una Protesta en Ingenio Ledesma—14 July 2015

Telesur—Policía Argentina Reprime a Trabajadores Azucareros en Jujuy—14 July 2015

Buenos Aires Herald—Force Used Against Workers’ Protest in Jujuy—15 July 2015

Los Andes—Represión Policial: 80 Trabajadores de Ledesma Heridos Durante una Protesta en Jujuy—15 July 2016

Massive Brawl at Hungarian Refugee Camp Near Serbian Border

By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Eight people have been hospitalized as the result of a massive brawl at a migrant processing center in the southern Hungarian town Kiskunhalas.  The refugee camp at Kiskunhalas is one of three closed camps in Hungary where asylum seekers are processed.  Over 200 asylum seekers participated in the fight, and approximately 200 police officers were sent to the camp to subdue the uprising.

Police patrol a migrant reception center in Hungary near the Serbian border (Photo Courtesy of ABC News)

Though the exact cause of the fight is not clear, Gyorgy Bakondi, chief advisor to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, believes the fight was triggered when a group of 20 asylum seekers from Algeria, Syria, Pakistan, and Mongolia threw furniture at each other.  Bakondi also stated that other incidents have occurred at the camp within the past week.

Through a report released in mid-July, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced Hungary for “cruel and violent treatment” of migrants in April and May.  The report accused police officers and soldiers manning the camp of beating refugees, then forcing them to return to Serbia.  Other human rights organizations have recently admonished Hungary for breaking its legal obligations to accept war refugees by making it nearly impossible for those seeking asylum to attain refugee status in the country.  The Hungarian government rejected these accusations, stating that the HRW misconstrued the rules of asylum proceedings.

As of July 5, any illegal migrant detained by Hungarian authorities within 8 kilometers of the Hungarian Serbian border can be returned the Serbia without any legal processing in Hungary.  Hundreds of migrants each day enter Hungary through Serbia, who enter Serbia through Macedonia and Bulgaria.  A majority of these migrants are expelled from Hungary and are sent back to Serbia.  Fearing a backup of migrants as a result of this new system, Serbia has deployed army and police teams to better patrol its borders.  Serbian Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic emphasizes that Serbia cannot be a “parking ground” for migrants whom no other European country is willing to accept.

For more information, please see:

Global Post — Migrants Injured in Mass Brawl at Hungary Refugee Camp — 18 July 2016

The Irish Times — Migrants Brawl in Hungarian Camp as Border Tensions Grown — 18 July 2016

Reuters — Migrants Fight in Hungarian Camp Near Serbian Border, Nine Injured — 18 July 2016

SYRIA DEEPLY- WEEKLY UPDATE July 16, 2016

The Basics · The Government · ISIS · The Opposition · Global Players

WEEKLY UPDATE
July 16, 2016

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the weekly Syria Deeply newsletter. We’ve rounded up the most important stories and developments about Syria and the Syrians in order to bring you valuable news and analysis. But first, here is a brief overview of what happened this week:

A nationwide cease-fire was in effect at the start of this week, and later extended until early Friday morning in Syria, but the truce did very little to halt the ongoing fighting on the ground.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, effectively came under siege at the end of last week as forces aligned with President Bashar al-Assad cut off the last supply route into opposition-held areas of Aleppo city. On Monday, several armed opposition factions launched an offensive on the western, government-held areas of the city, in an attempt to break the siege and reopen the coveted Castello Road.

Recent fighting in Aleppo throughout the week left dozens of civilians dead, but the battle for the city is ongoing. The highway has been rendered “impassable,” leaving some 300,000 people stranded in the city without access to much-needed humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

Idlib and Deir Ezzor provinces also came under attack this week. On Monday, an airstrike hit a fuel market in Idlib, killing at least 14 people, including a journalist who worked with Al-Jazeera.

In Deir Ezzor, Syrian government forces launched an operation on ISIS-controlled areas of the province. On Friday, the army carried out at least 50 airstrikes and were able to retake the majority of al-Sina’a district.

The renewed government offensive in Deir Ezzor came just after ISIS claimed responsibility for shooting down a Syrian army aircraft. ISIS released a propaganda video purporting to show militants shooting down a Syrian warplane and killing the pilot.

That was the second aircraft ISIS claimed responsibility for shooting down in the past seven days. Earlier this week, two Russian pilots were killed when ISIS reportedly shot down their helicopter over the city of Palmyra.

Weekly Highlights:

The Plight of Syria’s Star-Crossed Lovers

Syrian women living in the government-controlled province of Latakia must decide between love and danger if they are to marry the men of their choosing. If those men live in opposition-held areas of Syria, women often face harassment and extortion in order to be with the men they love.

Syrian refugee groom Ahmad Khalid, 21, and his bride Fatheya Mohammed, 21, sit in front of his family’s tent during their wedding ceremony at an informal tented settlement near the Syrian border on the outskirts of Mafraq, Jordan. AP/Muhammed Muheisen

Analysis: ISIS’s Ramadan Campaign of Terror

Middle East expert Mohamad Bazzi explains how the so-called Islamic State’s territorial losses in Syria and Iraq pushed it to focus on large-scale attacks around the world during the holy month of Ramadan.

A man sits amid a makeshift memorial inside a burned mall at the scene of a massive truck bombing last Sunday that killed at least 186 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group, in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, July 10, 2016. Hadi Mizban/Associated Press

Abandoning Syria to Two Tyrannies

The siege of Aleppo will have horrific ramifications for Syria, the region and global security. If the current U.S. policy in Syria does not change, the war-torn country risks falling into the hands of both Assad’s regime and the Islamic State group.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speak to each other while posing for a photo during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, July 15, 2016. The United States is offering Russia a broad new military partnership in Syria. AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Additional Reading:

For new reporting and analysis every weekday, visit www.newsdeeply.com/syria.
You can reach our team with any comments or suggestions at info@newsdeeply.org.

Top image: Syria Civil Defense volunteer search and rescue workers respond to an air attack on a fuel market in Idlib. Syria Civil Defense

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