Violations Documentation Center in Syria: Dear friend, The Syrian Government executed Bassel

The execution of the activist and programmer, Bassel Khartabil
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The execution of the activist and programmer, Bassel Khartabil

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Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Responding to Misconceptions Regarding the IIIM

SJAC Update | August 2, 2017
Responding to Misconceptions Regarding the IIIM
 
The following article was written through the cooperation of three non-governmental organizations: Syria Justice and Accountability Centre, Syrians for Truth and Justice, and the Violations Documentation Center in Syria. Its content reflects the joint views of these entities.
 The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes in Syria was established by UN General Assembly resolution in December 2016. On July 3, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Catherine Marchi-Uhel as Head of IIIM. Marchi-Uhel is a former French judge with broad international experience trying and adjudicating war crimes. During her 27-year career, Marchi-Uhel has provided legal support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the UN Mission in Liberia, and the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. She has also adjudicated for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and currently serves as Ombudsperson to the UN Security Council’s 1267 Committee – reviewing requests for delisting from the Committee’s Sanction List. Her appointment signals the beginning of IIIM’s substantive work.
Since IIIM’s inception, Syrian civil society has worked to support the Mechanism and to clarify its aims and means. In February, several Syrian NGOs sent a letter to the General Assembly noting questions and recommendations that would help the IIIM understand Syrians’ priorities and increase local buy-in. In May, a meeting between the IIIM start-up team and a wide range of Syria civil society organizations was held in Lausanne, Switzerland. The meeting provided an excellent platform to exchange views, provide recommendations, and establish a common understanding between both sides.
Despite these positive steps, some Syrian people, activists, and civil society groups still have questions regarding the IIIM’s purpose and potential for advancing accountability in Syria.
In June, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights’ (OHCHR) hosted a human rights reference group meeting in Turkey with Syrian NGOs to discuss the latest in human rights developments – including the IIIM’s progress. The meeting led to a greater understanding of the IIIM’s mandate. Since the meeting was not open to the public, we have identified five of the most prominent concerns voiced by Syrians and clarified them below for wider public understanding.
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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.
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Syria Justice and Accountability Centre · Laan Van Meerdervoort 70 · Den Haag, 2517 AN · Netherlands

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Violations Documentation Center in Syria: Responding to Misconceptions Regarding the IIIM

Responding to Misconceptions Regarding the IIIM
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Responding to Misconceptions Regarding the IIIM (English)

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Syria Deeply: Battle updates from Arsal outskirts, a good week for Russia in Syria and thinning ties between the U.S. and rebels

Syria Deeply
Jul. 28th, 2017
This Week in Syria.
 
Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.
Battle in Arsal outskirts: Hezbollah and an al-Qaida-linked militant group reached a cease-fire agreement on Thursday, a week after the Lebanese group and the Syrian army launched a joint offensive against militants in the rugged mountainous area along the Lebanese and Syrian border.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security agency, reportedly brokered the truce, according to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA). Under the terms of the deal, which extends to al-Qaida’s former Syria affiliate but not to fighters from the so-called Islamic State, fighters will be granted safe passage to Idlib province in Syria.
At least two dozen Hezbollah fighters and some 150 militants have been killed in clashes since the battle began last week, according to Al Jazeera.
But the battle in the outskirts of Arsal is not yet over. The next phase of the joint operation is expected to target nearby ISIS-held territory.
Russia’s wins in Syria: Four battalions of Russia’s military policy have been deployed around the proposed de-escalation zones in Syria, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian media on Wednesday.
Moscow had been in talks for several weeks about deploying its military police to buffer zones on the edges of the four de-escalation zones. At the last round of Astana talks earlier this month, however, Moscow, Turkey and Iran failed to reach a definitive agreement about “which specific forces” would police the zones, Russia’s chief negotiator Alexander Lavrentiev said. In addition, the opposition delegation told Reuters that they remained skeptical of the proposal.
Less than three weeks later, on Monday Russian military police set up “two checkpoints and four monitoring posts” in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs outside the capital, according to Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, the chief of the Russian general staff. This followed an earlier deployment in southwest Syria over the weekend, where Russia’s forces set up two checkpoints and 10 observation points.
The deployment comes after two individual cease-fire declarations in the respective areas. Violations have been reported in southern Syria and the cease-fire between government forces and opposition groups in Eastern Ghouta crumbled on Sunday after only 24 hours.
Russia further solidified its role in Syria later in the week, when President Vladimir Putin approved an agreement with the Syrian government that would allow Moscow to deploy at the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia province for the next 49 years, with the option of extending the agreement for a further 25 years, according to documents seen by Reuters.
Thinning ties between U.S. and rebels: Days after news broke that President Donald Trump had ended the covert CIA program that provided arms and training to Syrian rebel groups, the U.S.-led coalition urged its Syrian allies to only fight the so-called Islamic State.
“We have made it very clear time and again our goal in Syria and Iraq is to fight ISIS and fight ISIS only [and] we’ve asked [our partner forces] to be committed to that same mission,” coalition spokesperson U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
Ending the CIA program was a “signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia,” a U.S. official told Reuters last week. According to the New York Times, the decision came more than a month ago and revealed that ousting President Bashar al-Assad was no longer a U.S. priority.
The move has led at least one U.S-backed rebel group to split off from coalition forces and pursue independent operations against the Syrian government. In response, Dillon said Washington had begun the “process of ceasing our support,” for Shohada al-Quartyan, a local rebel group that had been fighting ISIS in southern Syria.
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At least 32 children in the besieged Houla region are suffering from an inherited blood disorder that requires frequent transfusions. Though fatality rates for thalassemia are not exceptionally high, the absence of supplies and blood banks has made it life-threatening.
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The economic strain of Syria’s six-year civil war has encouraged hidden forms of child labor, as an increasing number of youngsters take up work in dim factory buildings, dusty workshops and in the dingy backrooms of Damascene cafes.
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Like all wars, Syria’s conflict has taken not just a massive human toll, it has also had a significant environmental impact. But green initiatives in rebel and Kurdish areas – even failed ones – have brought a small measure of hope to local people.
973ab3c3-9b8d-4a6d-9ac8-50621f4257fe.png EDITOR’S PICKS
Community Insight
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Kim Bode,  Community Editor of Syria Deeply and Refugees Deeply
The former head of the U.S. Office of Global Criminal Justice, Stephen Rapp, spoke with Syria Deeply about improving the possibility of holding Syrian war criminals accountable.
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Lina Sinjab,  Syrian Journalist and Middle East Correspondent at the BBC
The conflict in Syria has given way to a new class of nouveau riche, dominated by warlords and independent businessmen who benefit from the status quo, and may make it difficult for an international deal to be implemented locally, writes Syrian journalist Lina Sinjab.
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Milia Eidmouni, Syrian Independent Media Group  Regional Director for the Syrian Female Journalist Network.
Though international nonprofits hope their empowerment and decision-making workshops will prove useful to Syrian refugee women, many women express a desire for more pragmatic and economic-oriented training courses.
FIRST LOOK
Upcoming coverage
We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.
 
 
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Rise For Syria: Syrian Conflict Through an Artist’s Eyes

Syrian Conflict Through an Artist’s Eyes

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Social media gives voice to creative expression in ways that news media could never convey. Photographers may capture destroyed buildings and bloody casualties but through an artist’s eyes you feel the story in a way that is truly personal. Art can be disturbing and healing both in its’ creation and through the experience of the viewer. Artist Moustafa Jacoub of Syria has a profound way  of contrasting the humanitarian crises with the universal desire to dream and play.

Whatever your personal interpretation may be, the feelings are universal within each of us.

We experience earthly angst and sublime beauty with a backdrop of sun and stars as our planet floats through time.

We may be refugees from our place of origin, immigrants traveling across eternity, but there is a place within each of us that is home…

In that place we are all connected despite the circumstances of our personal lives.

Compassion is the thread that stitches the seams of our torn reality.

Rise for Syria is a powerful, citizen-driven initiative to alleviate suffering for those who have lost their homes and are traumatized by the war. Even the smallest amount of generosity will go a long way to helping people heal and rebuild their lives!

Syria Deeply: Battle against ISIS, end of CIA aid to rebels and a new offensive on the Syrian-Lebanese border

Battle against ISIS, end of CIA aid to rebels and a new offensive on the Syrian-Lebanese border

Syria Deeply
Jul. 24th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

Battle against ISIS: Pro-government forces and U.S.-backed forces intensified their advance against the so-called Islamic State group near Raqqa.

The Syrian army and allied militias seized the al-Daylaa oil field alongside the Zamla gas field in a desert region of southwestern Raqqa province on Monday. Over the weekend, pro-government forces took control of the Wahab, al-Fahd, Dbaysan, al-Qseer, Abu al-Qatat and Abu Qatash oil fields and several other villages in the same area.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clashed with ISIS fighters in central Raqqa and in the southwestern neighborhood of Yarmouk earlier this week.

At least 30 civilians were killed in airstrikes on ISIS-held areas this week: 15 were killed in coalition airstrikes in the village of Zour Shimr, near Raqqa, and another 15 people were killed by what Syrian opposition activists claimed was a Russian warplane in the eastern village of Ayash.

Some 200,000 people are in Raqqa province, many of them in urgent need of food deliveries and humanitarian aid. Last week, the World Food Programme (WFP) was able to make food deliveries to Mansoura and other rural areas north of Raqqa for the first time in three years, after the opening of a land route that connects Aleppo to Hasakah

Trump ends CIA aid to Syrian rebels: President Donald Trump has ended the covert CIA program that provided arms and training to Syrian rebel groups. The move, news of which broke on Wednesday, is an apparent “signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia,” a U.S. official told Reuters.

According to the New York Times, the decision to end the program came more than a month ago and revealed that ousting President Bashar al-Assad was no longer a U.S. priority.

Hezbollah, Syrian army launch border offensive: Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched a joint offensive against militant groups holed up in a rugged mountainous section of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier late Thursday night.

Some 3,000 militants, including al-Qaida-linked insurgents and members of the so-called Islamic State group, are said to be holed up in the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal, which has been buffeted by the war in Syria since 2011.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

After The Buses: Life in a Government-Controlled Damascus Suburb

The Damascus suburb of Barzeh, once a thorn in the side of the Syrian government, has been under full government control for less than two months. Syria Deeply takes a look at the current situation in the neighborhood through the eyes of its remaining residents.

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RELIGIOUS & ETHNIC GROUPS

Analysis: Shift in Rhetoric Among Kurdish Politicians in Syria

Kurdish political officials in Syria are taking an increasingly anti-Iranian and pro-Saudi Arabia stance amid the rising tensions between Washington, Tehran and their proxies, and the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, writes journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg.

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DISPLACEMENT

‘I Just Had to Go Back’: Syrian Repatriates Speak of Return

Some 31,000 Syrians have returned to the war-torn country from abroad this year and many are struggling to survive in a country they call home.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Analysis: What a Battle on the Lebanese Border Could Mean For Syria

A battle on the outskirts of a Lebanese border town will have significant implications on the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon and may boost Hezbollah’s capabilities in Syria as it moves to secure a section of the Lebanese frontier, writes Kareem Chehayeb.

973ab3c3-9b8d-4a6d-9ac8-50621f4257fe.png EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight

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ISIS

How the Economic Model of ISIS Evolves Post-Caliphate

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Haid Haid,  Syrian Researcher

Due to U.S.-led military operations to counter its finances, the so-called Islamic State is not only changing its military tactics but also adapting its economic practices, writes Chatham House fellow Haid Haid.

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EDUCATION

Leveraging U.S. College Scholarships for Syrian Students

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Kim Bode,  Community Editor of Syria Deeply and Refugees Deeply

The Syrian Youth Empowerment initiative guides high-school students in Syria through the U.S. college application process. Its cofounder George Batah explains the importance of Syrians winning scholarships to study in the U.S.

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: The Significance of Apologies and Truth-Telling in the Syrian Conflict

SJAC Update | July 11, 2017
Mustafa Tlass (left), photo from Wikipedia and
Jihad Makdissi, photo from UN Geneva

The Significance of Apologies and Truth-Telling in the Syrian Conflict

On June 27, former Syrian defense minister Mustafa Tlass, 85, died in Paris. Tlass – who served as defense minister from 1972 to 2004 – was a close aide to former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad and his son, current president Bashar al-Assad. While defense minister, Tlass ordered up to 150 deaths per week by hanging in Damascus alone. He was also accused of coordinating the 1982 massacre of Hama, wherein soldiers reportedly committed crimes against humanity and killed between 10,000 to 40,000 individuals. Tlassnever publicly apologized for his actions as defense minister. Figures on all sides of the conflict have refused to issue public apologies for wrongdoings, undermining their significance in facilitating accountability and healing for individuals and society and “white-washing” human rights abuses.

Former Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Makdissi has also failed to correct statements made while representing the Syrian government. During his tenure, Makdissi denied government responsibility for the 2012 Houla massacre in Homs, which killed 108 people – mostly women and children. The United Nations, eyewitnesses, and human rights groups claim government forces perpetrated the attack. Makdissi confirmed leaving the government in a 2013 statement, in which he apologized to those who trusted his credibility but did not offer true accounts of government atrocities – claiming to “know no more than” ordinary citizens. Makdissi’s apology failed to affirm the reality of government crimes, acknowledge the experiences of victims, or foster public dialogue to reexamine norms under the current regime.

Mustafa Tlass’ eldest son Firas Tlass, a wealthy opposition financier, has capitalized on war-time events and even his apology itself. Before defecting, Firas Tlass ran the MAS Group, which supplied the Syrian army with clothes, food, and medicine. He is also believed to have maintained close business ties with members of the Assad family. After defecting, Firas Tlass created (and now leads) The Syrian Promise, an anti-regime political movement. He claimed in a YouTube video to have apologized numerous times for his role in supporting the Assad government but stated that this is not enough without “compensation” – which he achieves by supporting opposition entities. Despite his apology, many Syrians consider his words and actions as mere ploys to establish political power in post-conflict Syria. Moreover, Firas Tlass’ political recruits have reportedly attacked individuals who criticize his late father’s legacy. These violent tactics and vies for political influence only repeat the wrongdoings of the Assad regime. They fail to convey true remorse to victims and perpetuate the very actions Firas Tlass has verbally denounced, undermining the apology’s significance.

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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

This email was sent to dmcrane@law.syr.edu
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Syria Justice and Accountability Centre · Laan Van Meerdervoort 70 · Den Haag, 2517 AN · Netherlands

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Syrian Center for Legal Researches and Studies: The International Mechanism of Evidence Collecting Concerning the Crimes Committed in Syria

THE INTERNATIONAL MECHANISM OF EVIDENCE COLLECTING CONCERNING THE CRIMES COMMITTED IN SYRIA

Date of publication: 2017-07-09 03:10:59

Number of Views: 90

THE INTERNATIONAL MECHANISM OF EVIDENCE COLLECTING CONCERNING THE CRIMES COMMITTED IN SYRIA
AN APPROACH BETWEEN EXPECTATIONS & REALITY
STUDY
by Lawyer Reem Alkasirir
This study includes a research discussing new mechanisms
Introduction: about Syrian circumstances and crimes committed in Syria
1- The conditions and motives behind passing the resolution and launching the mechanism
2- International resolution content
3- Structure, powers, and competence
4- Expected advantages of the new mechanism
5- Challenges related to mechanism
6- Conclusion

1- Introduction
Six years have passed since Syrian public protests started, which have been faced down by Syrian regime by unjustified violence, and illegal arrests. Violations and crimes have developed into killing and devastation when the regime used heavy weaponry, explosive barrels, killing under torture, siege, forced starving and displacement. Moreover, the regime has used internationally-prohibited weapons such as chemical weapons. As events have developed without any serious interference by international community to stop such violations and crimes which are defined by the international criminal court as war crimes, crimes against humanity, forced displacement, genocide, and/or sexual-violence crimes; armed paramilitary groups have been formed from both battling parties to control certain parts in Syria. Similarly, such groups have perpetrated crimes and violations as well against the civilians.
Therefore, human rights council (HRC) has founded the independent international investigation committee on Syria during the its 17th special session. This committee has been formed to investigate all alleged violations by the international law of human rights starting from March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic.
The committee has been formed as well to study the facts and circumstances that might be listed under such violations, along with investigating the crimes that have been committed, whenever committee officials are allowed to define and spot such crimes, in order to make sure that such violations perpetrators, including the violations that might be considered as crimes against humanity, would be held accountable for such crimes.
The committee has collected confirmed evidence about horrible crimes committed in Syria, that might be listed under crimes against humanity. About such crimes; the committee has prepared seventeenth reports.
Unanimously, Security Council has adopted resolution No. 2235 about forming a joint investigation committee for one year, that might be renewed, in order to investigate the attacks in which chemical weapons have been used in Syria. The committee has been authorized to define individuals, commissions, groups, and/or governments that are suspected to be involved, being responsible for, have committed, and/or participated in using chemical weapons in Syria, including chlorine gas or whatsoever other poisonous chemical weapons. The committee has conducted an investigation about using chemical weaponry in Syria between 2014 and 2015. Reports have been delivered by the committee to UN security council. Joint reports between UN and organization for prohibition of chemical weapons have confirmed the fact that the Syrian army of the regime has been involved in waging a poisonous gas attack against Qamnis, a village near Idlib province in 2015. Another report mentioned that the Syrian regime forces are responsible for two chemical attacks at two spots, the first is in Idlib countryside (in the north of Syria), during April 2014, and March 2015. Additionally, ISIS is responsible for using chemical weapons in Aleppo countryside on 21st August 2016.
2- Circumstances and motives behind passing the resolution and launching the mechanism
After three failing attempts at Security Council to refer the file of the crimes committed in Syria to the international criminal court due to the veto used by Russia and China to prevent such a file to be referred to this court; the international community has reached a dead end considering establishing justice in Syria or prosecuting the criminals who are responsible of perpetrating such crimes and violations.
This resolution has been passed due to the grave crimes and violations of humanitarian international law, along with horrible encroachments of human rights law and impunity as far as these crimes are concerned. Most crimes have been committed during conflict period, and this creates a good environment for more crimes and violations to be committed. Such practices cannot be accepted by the international community as far as what happens in Syria is concerned.
Moreover, due to the recurrent pressures practiced on the security council by the secretary general and high commissioner for human rights of the security council to refer the Syrian file to the international criminal court, and with the security council failure to take any action to stop such crimes and violations and to hold the perpetrators as accountable for such crimes; UN general assembly has adopted on Thursday 12th December 2016 a significant resolution including creating an international neutral independent mechanism to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of crimes committed in Syria since March 2011, in order to collect, support, save and analyze evidence about these crimes.
It’s worth mentioning here that the resolution has been voted for by 105 member states, with 15 objections and 52 abstained.

 

3- The Resolution :
Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 21 December 2016
[without reference to a Main Committee (A/71/L.48 and Add.1)]
71/248. International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011
The General Assembly,
Guided by the Charter of the United Nations,
Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic,
Recalling the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, in particular Human Rights Council resolution S 17/1 of 23 August 2011 that established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,
Welcoming the ongoing work carried out by the Commission of Inquiry, and recalling its reports and the recommendations contained therein,
Expressing its appreciation for the work carried out by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, and recalling its reports and the conclusions contained therein,
Recognizing the work of Syrian and international civil society actors in documenting violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights law in the Syrian Arab Republic during the conflict,
Noting with concern the impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights law committed during the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, which has provided a fertile ground for further violations and abuses,
Recalling the statements made by the Secretary-General, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council that crimes against humanity and war crimes are likely to have been committed in the Syrian Arab Republic,
Noting the repeated encouragement by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Security Council to refer the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic to the International Criminal Court,
1. Emphasizes the need to ensure accountability for crimes involving violations of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 through appropriate, fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the domestic or international level, and stresses the need to pursue practical steps towards this goal to ensure justice for all victims and to contribute to the prevention of future violations;
2. Stresses the need for any political process aimed at resolving the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic to ensure credible and comprehensive accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses committed in the country in order to bring about reconciliation and sustainable peace;
3. Welcomes the efforts by States to investigate and prosecute crimes within their jurisdiction committed in the Syrian Arab Republic, in accordance with their national legislation and international law, and encourages other States to consider doing the same and to share relevant information to that end with other States;
4. Decides to establish the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 under the auspices of the United Nations to closely cooperate with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, in accordance with international law;
5. Requests the Secretary-General, in this regard, to develop, within 20 working days of the adoption of the present resolution, the terms of reference of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, with the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and also requests that the Secretary-General undertake, without delay, the steps, measures and arrangements necessary for the speedy establishment and full functioning of the Mechanism, initially funded by voluntary contributions, in coordination with the Commission of Inquiry and building on existing capacities, including recruiting or allocating impartial and experienced staff with relevant skills and expertise in accordance with the terms of reference;
6. Calls upon all States, all parties to the conflict as well as civil society to cooperate fully with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and the Commission of Inquiry to effectively fulfil their respective mandates and, in particular, to provide them with any information and documentation they may possess, as well as any other forms of assistance pertaining to their respective mandates;
7. Requests the United Nations system as a whole to fully cooperate with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and to promptly respond to any request, including access to all information and documentation, and decides that the Mechanism shall closely cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry in all aspects of its work;
8. Requests the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the present resolution within 45 days of its adoption, and decides to revisit the question of funding of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism as soon as possible.

66th plenary meeting
21 December 2016

 

4- Structure, Authorities & competences
Creating this mechanism is a precedent, since UN general assembly has never taken such a procedure before. Despite the fact that security council and human rights council have already formed investigation committees, yet such a mechanism is totally different from other investigation committees’ activities, because it has been formed by the highest international organization, and it has been formed not only to investigate, but also to thoroughly prepare files to facilitate things for the working team to achieve the mechanism goals, and how to deal with them, along with finding out the competences, roles and functions of this mechanism as far as the Syrian case in concerned as well as the prosecutions related to this mechanism. Therefore, we can describe such a mechanism as a legal process aiming to collect, support, save, analyze evidence so that they can serve as a means to condemn the perpetrators of documented crimes. This procedure can be done by preparing files and being ready to file lawsuits regarding war crimes in Syria, as well as human rights violations that have been committed during conflict time. This mechanism would be applied neutrally and independently to serve as a tool for investigating and prosecuting those who are responsible of the crimes committed in Syria.
1- Mechanism Process
The resolution has not been clear concerning how the mechanism should be applied, or what roles to be assumed by it. The resolution has asked all conflict countries and parties along with civil society groups to provide any information or documents to the team in order to facilitate such a task. It showed that the team would prepare files in order to facilitate and accelerate fair independent criminal procedures that go in line with international law standards at national, regional, and/or international courts or arbitration commissions that would or might be given a judicial power to consider such crimes in the future. Clearly, the mechanism shall be applied on two significant levels including:
a- Collecting, saving, and analyzing evidence about human rights violations and transgressions to help save them from any loss.
b- Preparing files to facilitate and accelerate fair independent criminal procedures that go in line with international law standards at national, regional and/or international courts, or special courts that should consider these crimes whether now or in the future.
However, the resolution has never defined whether the investigation committee would investigate such crimes to reach certain accusations against criminals or to only collect and save evidence. I think since evidence analysis and file preparation tasks have been added; this means that the committee should at least investigate the authenticity and correctness of evidence and make sure of them in order to reach certain results concerning the criminals, and this would help it to be able to prepare judicial files, and consequently, to carry out additional investigations.
2- Mechanism Competences
Article No. 5 mentions that the secretary general should assign the competences of the neutral independent international mechanism within 20 working days, starting from the date of passing this resolution. He must depend on UN high commissioner for human rights to do this. This action would help start with preparing mechanism process and activating it in coordination with the independent international investigation committee that has been formed for Syria, and to benefit from this committee’s capabilities and experiences in order to take the following procedures:
a- Providing finance for the mechanism through donations and by UN member states.
b- Assigning qualified independent employees who enjoy good experiences and qualifications
c- Organizing the processes of data collecting, saving, exchanging in a way that makes sure all of them are kept as confidential and top secret in order to protect various information sources.
d- Asking all conflict states and parties, in addition to the international community to thoroughly cooperate with the mechanism, and to provide any information or documents they have about crimes committed in Syria.
e- Preparing clear detailed files according to international standards in order to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes
f- Adopting the principle of transparency and neutrality in activating the mechanism and its fulfilling the duties and tasks, along with sending files to UN general assembly to make sure that a joint interaction at work has been created between organizations, civil society members and crime victims.
Because the mechanism is new and has been activated lately; the perceptions about starting the work have not been assumed their final shape, whether at the level of preparations or commencement. Therefore, the formation of this mechanism has been discussed, and the secretary general has assigned human rights council official to start creating the administrative structure of mechanism process, as well as creating rules for its activation. So far, many meetings and conferences have been held with concerned organizations and states, along with Syrian organizations to help formulate such a structure and process ways and methods, so we hope our study might make a difference as an additional effort to support such a process.

3- Expected advantages of the new mechanism
– Depending on neutrality, transparency and independence principles that are adopted for dealing with conflict parties in Syria; there is no need to resort for double standards pretext, and all war crimes perpetrators in Syria would be summoned to courts to be prosecuted in this case.
– This mechanism is seen as the milestone to carry out serious investigation depending on rigid international standards to help accelerate prosecution processes and to hold war crimes perpetrators as accountable for what happened during conflict period.
– The mechanism that relies on collecting evidence and documenting war crimes according to approved legal procedural laws is the only way to save victims’ rights on one hand, and to be able to hold war crime perpetrators as accountable on the other hand, and this might be achieved when international circumstances allow to hold such prosecutions and trials.
– The resolution of forming this mechanism has restored the hopes of war crime victims that justice would be applied at the end of the day.
– We should note here that the significance of this mechanism lies in the fact that it would protect evidence from any loss caused by any reason with the passage of time, especially when it adopts strict rigid confirmation and proof standards at international criminal court.
– This mechanism creates a precedent, because for the first time in history a mechanism has been created to collect evidence, and prepare records while crimes are still going on. Normally, judicial records are usually collected when these crimes come to an end.
– One of the positive points is the joint work under the patronage of United Nations between fact-finding committee about Syria and the mechanism team on one hand, and the civil organizations and communities on the other hand, in addition to the cooperation between variety of international organizations. This cooperation and coordination would join the efforts of these organizations and help collect unified databases, in addition to lessening the tension created by the bad effects of competitiveness that has prevailed between such organizations, so that a reliable unified database for all former evidence and documentations would be created.
4- Challenges that would be faced by the New Mechanism
1- Finance: the first challenge that might be faced by the mechanism is to find a finance, and it is the first challenge faced by it throughout seven months starting from the date of its formation, since it was unable to collect the budget of the first year of activation. Recently, interested human rights organizations and Syrian organizations have launched a campaign to collect money to finance the mechanism activation, because the finances that would create justice must occupy the first priority in the world that claims to be interested in the Syrian case. Moreover, if the mechanism depends only on governmental finance this would make it fluctuate according to any changes that might occur to political situations. Therefore, it’s better for this mechanism to continue to depend on other open resources of finance in order not to be under the pressures practiced by other countries and states.
2- Tasks & Authorities
Many find that the resolution of creating such a mechanism is impractical and it is just an emotional way to settle things down, which means it is useless, because the processes and activities of former investigation committees created by human rights council or security council are still pending without any hope to leave an impact on the situation, whether on the level of stopping the violations or on the level on resorting to courts to hold the perpetrators as accountable and to prosecute them.
However, we can just discuss that such a resolution has not been applied yet, and this mechanism has not been activated in reality to decide whether it is a success or failure. Nevertheless, whether the mechanism is capable of resisting all political circumstances that bet on the impossibility of creating international courts, condemning war criminals and holding them accountable, yet such a mechanism would prepare the files that go in line with international standards and according to international legal procedures, so that they would be ready to be settled instead of procrastination caused by long years of prolonged procedures between conflicting parties before courts, as this mechanism would struggle to reach decisive judgments as quickly as possible regarding how criminals should be punished. As we have already said, we think that this step makes a precedent that creates a better environment for justice and transparency with other lawsuits that would be filed later.
3- Mechanism goals and Cooperation with International Organizations
Many debate that the goal of this mechanism is still unclear, and they keep asking about the aim of creating a new mechanism to collect files, information and documents about crimes committed in Syria; since there is an independent international investigation committee that was formed in 2012 which has collected many evidence, as the investigation committee about using chemical weapons. However, nothing has been filed to an international court to pass judgments against the criminals. This means that creating a UN committee would never add anything to the case, since court competence has never been defined, nor a court or a thorough mechanism has been formed to establish justice. As fact-finding committee has truly presented files about violations and crimes committed in Syria, in addition to files prepared by high-tech international techniques; this means that circumstances have been prepared to prosecute criminals and file lawsuits against them and to enable such a committee to go on. However, the committee could not present such evidence to any judicial commission, because no special courts for the Syrian crisis have been formed up till now.
To pass this challenge; according to article 4 of the resolution; the mechanism has been established under UN patronage in order to cooperate with international investigation committee, not to cancel its role. This means that it is not an independent committee that can practice its duties away from the new mechanism. Evidently, the most important thing is that this resolution has been passed to confirm the fact that it is necessary to cooperation with investigation committees that have already worked on the Syrian case. Such a cooperation would help commence in working from the point that has been reached by other efforts exerted by the investigation committee. The importance of this cooperation between investigation committees and mechanism team would be clear at two significant points:
1- Work shall start at significant levels of the Syrian case through investigation committees, not from scratch.
2- There would be ready files, documents and evidence to facilitate the mechanism process in building up its new files according to the standards required internationally, along with archiving them to help achieve mechanism goals more easily and quickly.
Challenge here lies in how cooperation with international organizations and commissions that have already worked in this field could be achieved, and in depending on what they have reached to, along with participating with them in this regard.
4-Other Countries Stances
Some would say that such a mechanism would affect the sovereignty of the Syrian state, and create a gap between the methodology and application regarding how much UN charter is respected, and the same applies to the member state’ sovereignty. Those might discuss that this mechanism would represent a blatant interference in the internal affairs of a certain UN member state; as Al-Jafari, the Syria’s delegate to UN, has put it.
As a response about these claims, we could say first that Syrian laws do not originally include any articles about crimes against humanity or war crimes. Syrian jurisdiction structure itself is not independent and subject to other powers, so it cannot assume such a role at all. Additionally, transgression against Syrian state’s sovereignty has become quite clear through the interference of all countries that are present on the Syrian territories. Any interference in the Syrian internal affairs must be done to document war crimes rather than circumventing international laws to prevent any attempt to prosecuting the criminals. This documentation process would protect the sovereignty of the transgressed state, as it absolutely helps find out those who are affecting its sovereignty in reality. This mechanism would work in a neutral way, so the sovereignty of Syria would be preserved as a state, regardless of those who have committed war crimes.
5-Cooperation with Syrian Human Rights Organizations
Syrian human rights organizations issue creates a critical point a little bit, as it makes us inquire about the international investigation committee that has been formed five years ago with which Syrian organizations have cooperated and presented to all documented files. This means that it has reports about crimes committed in Syria, and ready files including evidence and proofs. However, no appropriate milieu has been created to form a court that would consider the Syrian case or pass judgments to condemn, accuse or confront war crimes perpetrators at least, so would such new mechanism be reliable? and can Syrian organizations and investigation committees monitoring and documenting human rights violations throughout conflict period under all sorts of pressures and risks cooperate with the team working on this field to achieve the goals of this mechanism?
We can discuss here that rousing any suspicions around trusting this procedure does not mean that it is not trustworthy. However, this flaw might become a positive point through finding solutions to support trust between these commissions. To support this kind of trust between the parties cooperating in the process of the mechanism; we suggest to enable Syrian organizations to directly take a part in this mechanism, as the mechanism process depends primarily on collecting evidence, rather than investigation. Absolutely, this fact contradicts the claims that the presence of Syrian members would kill the neutrality, or at least, a consulting committee created by members from Syrian organizations must be added to work with mechanism team, so that they would be responsible of keeping the secrets of committee’s work, along with supporting Syrian organizations self-confience by showing that they are not neglected or they don’t know anything about such documents, evidence or the general course of actions taken by the mechanism while it is doing its tasks. The committee that would be created to assume the role of the mechanism would support the fact-finding committee, and it would intensify the efforts exerted by the organizations that have worked on documentation, as the end is quite clear, which is to make use of the time that precedes lawsuit procedural process to reach fair judgments which ensure that all victims would be compensated, and all criminals would be held accountable.
6-Conclusions
Some think that the committee’s authorities are limited to collecting evidence, and documenting crimes, so that it is not allowed to form international, regional, and/or national courts to hold war criminals as accountable.
To refute such a negative point; as I have already mentioned, this mechanism is brand new, it is a precedent, and the team that would prepare the files would facilitate and accelerate impartial independent criminal procedures according to international law standards adopted in national, regional, international courts, and/or arbitration commissions that might be given a judicial authority to consider such crimes in the future. This means that such a mechanism might be the cornerstone for this project in the future. Moreover, the mechanism team might be able to ask UN to form special international courts to hold war criminals in Syria accountable later, as long as the conflict in Syria is still in progress between the regime and opposition parties.

 

5-Finally:
What is new in this mechanism? What is the legal humanitarian message that might serve human community as a whole and Syrian case in particular?
Depending on this study; we can tell that there is a kind of advance in UN response to open new windows for justice to be established. The message of hope regarding establishing justice and condemnations would not be subject to the political interests of other countries. Actually, this mechanism is a precedent that is, when it is activated seriously and bravely, especially in confronting war crimes perpetrators, would absolutely affect the development of international law, because laws would develop depending on the progress of considered precedents, and would affect international community efforts to find solutions and tools other than those already utilized and previously formed or available which weren’t used due to political complexities.
Therefore, we can discuss that creating this mechanism is a new victory in the process of establishing justice, not only in Syria, but also as far as international laws are concerned. We hope that this step would address a clear message to prevent other crimes in other places to happen in order to preserve people’s lives away from criminals. In fact, it would create a milestone, since it would show everyone in this world that the policy of impunity is about to be terminated once and for all.

Reem Alkasiri
Lawyer

 

The attached file

Syria Deeply: Astana talks fall short, rising hostility between Turkey and YPG and cease-fire violations in southern Syria

 

 

Jul. 7th, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

We’ll always have Astana: Another round of talks kicked off in Astana on Tuesday and, in what has become almost tradition for Syria negotiations, they ended with the promise of reconvening at a later date to resume discussions.

Talks in the Kazakh capital aimed to continue negotiations and solidify an earlier memorandum signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey in May to create four de-escalation zones in the country. The three co-sponsors failed to finalize details of the agreement by the original June 4 deadline.

After two days of negotiations this week about the actual implementation of this plan on the ground, Russia’s chief negotiator Alexander Lavrentiev said that the logistics would still “need finalizing,” adding that details were “essentially agreed” upon.

Early in the negotiations, Lavrentiev said that Russian troops could be deployed to secure the boundaries of the four zones within two to three weeks if Moscow, Turkey and Iran reached an agreement in Astana. However, it seems Russia spoke to soon, and on Wednesday, Lavrentiev said they had not reached a definitive agreement about “which specific forces” would police the zones, which has been a major point of contention throughout negotiations.

The opposition delegation was, unsurprisingly, skeptical about this proposal. An opposition representative told Reuters that they believed the agreement aimed “to set out the areas of influence between the three states that sponsor it… if we want to interpret it on the Syria-wide level, it represents the strengthening of Russian and Iranian influence on the ground.”

Iran, Russia and Turkey agreed to resume discussions in Astana in the final week of August.

Turks, Kurds ramp up hostile rhetoric: Turkey has deployed military units near Kurdish-held areas of northwestern Syria, resulting in protests and hostile rhetoric from Kurdish groups.

Speaking to Reuters, Sipan Hemo, the head of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, accused Turkey of preparing for a significant military push in the northern Syria areas of Aleppo and Afrin. “These [Turkish] preparations have reached level of a declaration of war and could lead to the outbreak of actual clashes in the coming days. We will not stand idly by against this potential aggression.”

Turkey’s deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus responded that Turkey was not making a “declaration of war” but rather “making preparations against potential threats.” However, he also claimed that YPG’s “primary goal is a threat to Turkey,” vowing to retaliate if “Turkey sees a YPG movement in northern Syria that is a threat to it.”

Anti-Turkish sentiment has already escalated in the Kurdish-controlled town of Afrin, after thousands of people took to the streets on Wednesday in a Democratic Union Party (PYD)-organized protest against Turkish military intervention. Demonstrations began after shelling from the Turkish military and its opposition allies killed a woman and two of her children in the northern Aleppo countryside on Tuesday.

A shaky cease-fire In southern Syria: A temporary cessation of hostilities has been in effect in Syria’s southern province since Monday, and has been extended until Saturday.

The Syrian army announced the brief cease-fire in the provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida “to support the peace process and national reconciliations.”

However, both sides have violated the cease-fire, after rebel leaders accused the army of carrying out barrel bomb attacks in opposition-held areas of Daraa city, the town of Naima and the Daraa countryside, shortly after the cessation of hostilities came into effect.

 

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Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: The Importance of Protecting Mass Graves in Syria

SJAC Update | July 3, 2017
A mass grave in eastern Bosnia. Photo from Wikimedia

 

The Importance of Protecting Mass Graves in Syria

As Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advance on Raqqa, Kurdish sources have reported the discovery of an alleged Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) mass gravesite four kilometers east of Tabqa. According to a 2016 Associated Press survey, ISIS has commonly used mass graves since 2014; the survey estimated ISIS has 72 mass gravesites in Iraq and Syria containing up to 15,000 bodies. Satellite imagery and other documentation indicate that both the Syrian government and ISIS use mass graves and burn sites to dispose of dead bodies, making victim identification difficult – but not impossible. Forensic DNA testing can aid in victim identification and crime scene investigation for use in future accountability efforts, but the ongoing conflict in Syria poses challenges to the proper preservation and analysis of mass graves. To avoid mishandling of dead bodies found in and around Raqqa, SDF forces, the US-led coalition, and the international community must commit to protecting the integrity of sites to eventually allow forensic experts unfettered access in conducting accurate investigations that yield evidence for future justice mechanisms and the safe return of bodies to families.

The United Nations (UN) considers a mass grave to be a location with three or more victims “of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” who have not died in combat. Under international humanitarian law (IHL), conflict parties should “take all possible measures” to prevent bodies from being despoiled and make all efforts to identify the dead and provide proper burials in marked graves. The use of mass gravesites hinders the accurate identification and recovery of remains, compounding the widespread missing persons crisis the Syrian conflict has produced.

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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

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Syria Deeply: Chemical warfare and rhetoric, Israel strikes Syria and battle against ISIS in Deir Ezzor

Chemical warfare and rhetoric, Israel strikes Syria and battle against ISIS in Deir Ezzor

Syria Deeply
Jun. 30th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

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Chemical Warfare and Rhetoric: Chemical weapons were once again in headlines about Syria this week, however, thankfully, not because there was another chemical attack on the ground.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued a brief two-paragraph statement on Monday claiming the U.S. had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

The “activities” observed were “similar to preparations the regime made” before the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, according to Spicer, who added that Assad and the Syrian military would “pay a heavy price” if a chemical weapon attack occurred.

The U.S. launched a missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat airfield in April, in retaliation for the Khan Sheikhoun attack. When asked why the U.S. administration believed Spicer’s statement would deter further chemical attacks, when U.S. military action didn’t, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said: “I don’t know that it didn’t based on what we know at this point.”

No further information was given until the following day, when Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the U.S. had observed “activity” at Shayrat airfield that involved a “specific aircraft in a specific hangar, both of which we know to be associated with chemical weapons use.”

The Syrian foreign ministry said the U.S. allegations were ‘‘misleading’’ and ‘‘completely baseless.’’ However, by Wednesday, U.S. defense secretary Jim Mattis said, “It appears that [the regime] took the warning seriously. They didn’t do it.”

On Thursday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), confirmed that sarin gas was used in the April 4 attack, but did not identify the perpetrator.

Israel Strikes Syria: Israel attacked Syrian government positions in southern Syria four times in less than a week in response to mortar fire landing in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israeli strikes on Saturday and Sunday hit Syrian military positions, ammunition trucks and artillery positions in Quneitra. The Syrian government claimed Israeli strikes hit a residential building and killed civilians.

On Wednesday, Israel said it hit a Syrian army position in the village of Samadanieh al-Sharqiyah, allegedly used to launch a mortar that landed in the Golan. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was visiting a town located about 12.5 miles (20km) from where the mortar fell on Wednesday, said: “Whoever attacks us, we attack them. This is our policy and we will continue to implement it.”

This policy was evident on Friday, when Israel again targeted Syrian army positions in response to additional errant mortar fire in the Golan.

Battling ISIS in Deir Ezzor: Several airstrikes hit the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, where both the U.S.-led coalition, Russia and Syria are known to carry out attacks against the so-called Islamic State.

Ground clashes between between ISIS and pro-government fighters also escalated at the southern entrance of Deir Ezzor city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The coalition targeted an ISIS prison in al-Mayadeen on Monday, killing at least 57 people.

On Wednesday, at least 30 civilians were killed in airstrikes on an ISIS-held village of al-Dablan, roughly 13 miles (20km) southeast of al-Mayadeen.

Shelling in the area on Thursday killed at least eight civilians, including one child, according to SOHR.

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Syria Deeply: “De-escalation” discussions, the many fights against ISIS and renewed clashes between rebels and regime

“De-escalation” discussions, the many fights against ISIS and renewed clashes between rebels and regime

Syria Deeply
Jun. 23rd, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

“De-escalation zone” discussions: Ahead of the next round of talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana set for early July, discussions have started about foreign troop deployment to secure four proposed “de-escalation zones.”

At last month’s set of Astana talks, Russia, Iran and Turkey signed off on the memorandum to create four “de-escalation zones” in the country, including areas in the provinces of Idlib and Homs, the eastern Ghouta region in the Damascus suburbs and in the southern provinces.

This week Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkish troops would “probably be most prominent in the Idlib region with the Russians; mostly Russia and Iran around Damascus, and a mechanism involving the Americans and Jordan in the south in the Daraa region is being worked on,” according to Turkey’s Haberturk television.

Russia said it was discussing options to send Kazakh and Kyrgyz troops to Syria, Vladimir Shamanov, head of the Russian Duma defense committee, told RIA news. However, Kazakhstan denied that negotiations were taking place, adding that it would only send peacekeeping troops to Syria under a United Nations mandate, according to a statement from the Kazakh foreign ministry.

Syrian deputy foreign minister Fayssal Mikdad said Damascus is “checking every letter” of the Astana agreement and “will not allow anything thing to pass from which Syria’s enemies could benefit,” according to Syria’s state-run media SANA.

The many fights against ISIS: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued their advance on Raqqa along the southern bank of the Euphrates River. The SDF pushed toward the eastern edge of the suburb of Kasrat al-Farj, in the area between the new and old bridges into Raqqa on Wednesday.

On Sunday, a U.S. fighter jet downed a Syrian army warplane for the first time since the conflict broke out in 2011. The Syrian regime SU-22 jet in the southern Raqqa countryside “dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah,” according to a U.S.-led coalition statement.

The coalition and U.S. Central Command also said pro-government forces attacked the SDF-held town of Ja’din, south of Tabqah on Sunday, driving fighters out of the town. On Monday, SDF spokesman Talal Selo said “if the regime continues attacking our positions in Raqqa province, we will be forced to retaliate … and defend our forces.”

Syrian government allies also stepped up their operations against the so-called Islamic State. On Sunday, Iran fired medium-range missiles from its western provinces into Syria, targeting an ISIS command base in Deir Ezzor, killing several militants and destroying weapons and equipment.

Russia fired six cruise missiles from warships and a submarine based in the Mediterranean on ISIS positions in Hama province, destroying an ISIS command post and ammunition depots, and killing a number of militants, Moscow’s TASS news agency reported on Friday.

Renewed Fighting Between Rebels, Regime: Pro-government forces resumed their campaign against rebels in the southern city of Daraa on Tuesday, after a brief 48-hour cessation of hostilities. Ground clashes and intense aerial bombardments, including barrel bombs and airstrikes, were ongoing in Daraa on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Also on Tuesday, Syrian troops and allied forces launched a new offensive against Western-backed Syrian rebels, pushing into the Bir Qassab area, located 45 miles (75km) southeast of Damascus, toward an eastern desert region near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders known as the Badia. The area recently came under Free Syrian Army control after rebels pushed ISIS militants out.

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Analysis: Future of Post-ISIS Raqqa Remains Unclear

With the caliphate crumbling under the swift advances of U.S.-backed forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces have put forth a plan for local governance after ISIS. Yet, without a financial backer, the city may have to rely on the state to restore services.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Analysis: The Battlefield in Syria’s Southernmost City, Daraa

In recent weeks Daraa has witnessed the most intense clashes and aerial bombardments it has seen for years. Despite the plan for “de-escalation zones,” civilians in the city are likely to be caught in the newest battlefield for foreign power proxies and the warring Syrian sides.

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EDUCATION

A Teenage Syrian Refugee on a Mission to Educate Her Generation

Nineteen-year-old refugee education campaigner Muzoon Almellehan has become the youngest-ever UNICEF goodwill ambassador. We talked with her about how she became an activist, fighting misconceptions about refugees and her hopes for the future of Syria.

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Community Insight

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WAR ECONOMY

Why States Are Still Investing in Syria Amid Continued Instability

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Reema Hibrawi,  Assistant Director at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

The impact of geopolitical dynamics on the economy, potential losses incurred from the ongoing violence and containing the threat of radicalized fighters, are factors pushing countries to invest in Syria, despite the instability, according to the Atlantic Council’s Reema Hibrawi.

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DISPLACEMENT

Crowdfunding a Stable Financial Future for Refugees and Hostst

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John Kluge,  Co-founder and Managing Partner of the Alight Fund

On World Refugee Day, the Alight Fund’s John Kluge and Lev Plaves of the microfinance NGO Kiva explain the limitations facing Syrian refugees regaining their financial footing, and the launch of World Refugee Fund, an initiative crowdfunding loans for refugees.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

We Must Start the Conversation About Return of Syrian Refugees Now

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Rim El Gantri,  Expert on Human Rights and Transitional Justice

If millions of displaced Syrians are to go home one day, we need to understand refugees’ conditions for returning, attitudes to justice and the possibility of coexistence, say the authors of an International Center for Transitional Justice study of refugees in Lebanon.

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via emailTwitter or Facebook.

Syria Deeply: Civilians under fire in Raqqa, a polio outbreak in Deir Ezzor and barrel bombs in Daraa

 

 

Jun. 16th, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

Civilians under fire in Raqqa: A United Nations war crimes investigation found that at least 300 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes in Raqqa since March. At least 200 of these civilian deaths happened in one village, al-Mansoura, according to Karen Abuzayd, an American commissioner on the U.N. Commission of Inquiry.

In its new report “Key Concerns for Raqqa Battle,” Human Rights Watch emphasized that all sides fighting in the battle for Raqqa should not just be focused on “defeating ISIS, but also about protecting and assisting the civilians who have suffered under ISIS rule for three and a half years,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s deputy Middle East director. Areas of particular concern for civilian protection are minimizing civilian casualties, respecting detainee rights and safe passage and support for displaced people, according to HRW.

The U.N. estimates that roughly 400,000 civilians remain in the province of Raqqa, and about half are in Raqqa city. Nearly 3,500 people have been displaced from Raqqa since the start of this month, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces advanced further into Raqqa city this week, reportedly reaching the walls of the Old City.

Polio outbreak in Idlib: The World Health Organization confirmed and is monitoring an outbreak of polio in the province of Deir Ezzor.

The outbreak began after the virus was detected in two children – in March and May – who have been paralyzed as a result. A third child tested positive for the strain, but has not been paralyzed. These are the first cases of polio in Syria since 2014.

A vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 was detected in the affected children, which can result from underimmunization of a community.

In order to eradicate the virus, close to 80 percent of children in a community must be vaccinated. However “access for vaccination is compromised due to prevailing insecurity” in ISIS-controlled Deir Ezzor, according to WHO.

Southern Syria: The Syrian government and its allies stepped up their offensive in the southern province of Daraa.

Early in the week, rebel groups and Syrian pro-government forces were locked in fierce fighting around the city’s Palestinian refugee camp.

Syrian army helicopters dropped at least 36 barrel bombs on various towns in the southern province on Thursday, and at least 50 on Daraa city the previous day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

 

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Long Read: Israel’s Quiet Campaign to Gain a Foothold in Southern Syria

Despite its official policy of non-intervention, Israel has taken on a very proactive role in Syria, working to establish an Israel-friendly zone in Quneitra, akin to its strategy in southern Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.

 

OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

A Small Syrian Town’s Revolt Against Al-Qaida

Al-Qaida-linked factions have been widening their hold in the only Syrian governorate under near complete rebel control, but one small town in southern Idlib is once again rising up against extremist rule.

 

Q&A

Understanding What Syrian Refugees Want

An extensive survey of Syrian refugees in Turkey finds very few of them are en route to Europe. We speak to one of the researchers who conducted the poll about what made Syrians flee, and what they want from the peace process and the future.

 

 

EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight

 

Q&A

Medical Workers Seek Accountability for Syrian Healthcare Attacks

Hashem Osseiran,  Deputy Managing Editor of Syria Deeply

 

Medical workers are monitoring attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria. Their aim is to provide data that can be used by international agencies to enforce legal protections and hold the perpetrators accountable for breaches of international law.

 

ARTS & CULTURE

New Documentary Traces the Rise of ISIS

Kim Bode,  Community Editor of Syria Deeply and Refugees Deeply

 

In his new documentary, “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS,” filmmaker Nick Quested traces the geopolitical decisions that unwittingly contributed to the Syrian conflict and the rise of the so-called Islamic State.

 

 

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2017 News Deeply, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

 

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Coalition Airstrikes in Syria and the Issue of Civilian Harm

SJAC Update | June 15, 2017
Home of activist Wassim Abdo in Tabqa where his family was killed allegedly by US airstrike

 

Coalition Airstrikes in Syria and the Issue of Civilian Harm

As the US-led global coalition fights the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the Syrian Democratic Forces, the coalition’s partner on the ground, have advanced on Raqqa. But as ISIS’s so-called capital and military stronghold is giving way, civilians have been stuck in the middle of intense fighting. Between August 2014 and April 2017, the Coalition conducted over 20,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, but since US President Donald Trump took office in January, the number of airstrikes in Syria has increased significantly with over 2,800 strikes in the past five months. As the fighting has moved closer to population hubs like Raqqa, the strikes have taken a toll on civilians. While it is difficult to verify every claim of civilian death, the number of civilians the Coalition has confirmed dead in both Iraq and Syria increased by 90% from January to April as compared to all of 2016. According to statistics compiled by Airwars. from January to June, there have been 977 reports of civilian causalities that are unconfirmed but credible (“reasonable level of public reporting of alleged incident from two or more generally credible sources, often with biographical, photographic or video evidence”), a stark increase from the previous year.

Through the Coalition’s strategy of insulating ISIS by bombing bridges and ISIS’s strategy of using civilians as human shields, the fighting has severely hindered civilians from escaping Raqqa. Those who are able to flee the city have sometimes been met with a shortage of humanitarian supplies. Increased airstrikes, an inadequate humanitarian response, alleged abuses by SDF affiliated forces, and a lack of accountability have led to increased resentment among the local population that will be difficult to overcome as anti-ISIS forces attempt to reestablish security in the area. In Iraq, for example, civilian casualties due to Coalition airstrikes caused such anger in Mosul that in late May, Iraqi forces halted their efforts to in order to reassess tactics.

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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

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