Jordan’s shift in south Syria, the sixth round of Astana talks and the complex battle in Eastern Syria.
Sep. 15th, 2017
Jordan’s shift in south Syria, the sixth round of Astana talks and the complex battle in Eastern Syria.
For Syria Deeply’s ongoing feature, Expert Views, we’re gathering fresh insight and commentary from our expert community. This week, we invite you to share your insights on this topic: What factors contributed to the suddenly closer ties between Jordan and Syria and how did this impact their respective allies?
Southern Syria: Several developments in southern Syria this week have further pointed to a thawing of relations between Amman and Damascus, despite weeks of clashes between Jordan-backed Syrian rebels and pro-Syrian government forces.
The CIA, Saudi Arabia and Jordan allegedly have asked two Free Syrian Army (FSA) affiliates – Usoud al-Sharqiya and Martyr Ahmad Abdo – to surrender their positions, cease all fighting with pro-government forces and retreat to Jordan, Reuters reported.
“We have rejected the request, since if we entered Jordan we would consider it the end … the blood of our martyrs has not dried yet,” Badr al-Din al-Salamah, a senior official in the Usoud al-Sharqiya group, told Reuters.
Following the alleged request, Jordan and Russia’s foreign ministers met in Amman to discuss details of a proposed de-escalation zone in southern Syria.
“The goal is to set up a de-escalation zone in the fastest possible time. Our priority is that our borders are secure and that means that there should be no Daesh nor Nusra nor sectarian militias,” Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi said, referring to ISIS and the former name of al-Qaida’s branch in Syria.
According to Reuters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also brought up the issue of reopening Jordan’s Nasib border crossing with Syria. Jordan’s King Abdullah II said in an interview published on Thursday that the Jordanian border with Syria will open when security conditions in southern Syria improve.
Astana round six: De-escalation zones are the primary focus of the sixth round of Syria talks, ongoing in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The Iran, Russia and Turkey- brokered talks began on Thursday and included representatives of the Syrian government and some rebel factions.
On Friday, Turkey’s state-run news agency claimed that representatives from Moscow, Tehran and Ankara agreed on the borders of a fourth de-escalation zone in Syria’s northeastern Idlib province.
“Officials from Turkey, Russia and Iran have agreed the borders of the zone in the northern province of Idlib and are negotiating over which monitors will be deployed,” the Anadolu news agency reported, citing anonymous Turkish and Russian diplomatic officials.
Turkey’s foreign ministry released a statement later on Friday that said Turkey, Iran and Russia would deploy “observers… at check and observation points in safe zones that form the borders of the de-escalation zone,” Reuters reported.
“The main mission of these observers has been defined as the prevention of clashes between the regime and the opposition forces and any violations of the truce,” the statement added.
As of Friday afternoon, it was still unclear which areas of Idlib would be included. Idlib is the last province in Syria under full rebel control and was one of the four zones proposed in the May de-escalation agreement.
Battle in eastern Syria: The complex battle against the so-called Islamic State continued in eastern Syria, as various warring sides saw respective influxes of fighters.
Over the weekend, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched a campaign against militants in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir Ezzor. The Kurdish-Arab alliance reached an industrial zone outside Deir Ezzor city, but would not enter, anti-ISIS coalition spokesman said on Thursday.
According to U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, the SDF will focus its operations on areas south of Deir Ezzor city, along the Euphrates River. This will detract from direct confrontation with pro-government forces in the area.
On Monday, reinforcements for Syrian troops and allied fighters arrived in Deir Ezzor, as pro-government forces prepare for “an attack to push Daesh [ISIS] from the city’s eastern neighborhoods,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the U..K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Reinforcements included equipment, vehicles and fighters, he added.
ISIS also saw fighter arrivals in eastern Syria this week. Part of the convoy carrying hundreds of ISIS fighters and their families who were recently evacuated from the Lebanese border, arrived in the town of Mayadin on Wednesday, the New York Times reported.
Russian and international coalition airstrikes reportedly killed more than a hundred people in eastern Syria since Sunday, many of them children, according to the SOHR.
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Qatar renews call for prosecution of Syria war crimes
September 7, 2017 at 12:00 am
The State of Qatar renewed today its call for the international community to bring war criminals in Syria to an international justice after an independent United Nations (UN) investigation has showed that the Syrian army used Sarin gas during its air strikes on Khan Sheikhun town last April.
The Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement that the impunity of the Syrian war criminals has contributed to the escalation of violence against the Syrian people in “a systematic way.”
The statement stressed on the importance of reaching a political resolution for the Syrian crisis based on the Geneva-1 statement on Syria as well as the UN Security Council resolutions to meet what it described as “the Syrian people’s legitimate aspirations.”
772 Civilians Killed in August 2017
The largest civilian causalities were at the hands ofInternational Coalition Forces and Syrian Regime Forces, with Russian forces distributing significantly less deaths than normal again this month, keeping to the de-escalation agreement of May 2017.
International Coalition Forces were the largest perpetrator with a total of 285 civilians, including 97 children and 58 women throughout the month of August. The second largest portion of civilian casualties were at the hands of Syrian Regime Forces, with a total of 229 civilians, including 24 women and 17 children.
The death tolls perpetrated by ISIS is also noteworthy. The report shows that ISIS killed at least 102 civilians this month, including 22 children and 13 women.
The de-escalation agreement of May 2017 is still in effect in the four established zones of the Idlib governate, nothern Homs, Eastern Ghouta and parts of Daraa and al Quneitra. In May 2017, Russia, USA and Jordan also announced a ceasefire agreement for southwestern Syria including the Daraa, Quneitra and Suwayda governates.
A surprising 69% decrease in killing at the hands of the Syrian-Russian alliance was recorded compared to last April. However, in recent months, there has been a significant increase of deaths at the hands of international coalition forces. This month, they were responsible for a total of 37% of all civilian casualties, 55% of which were women and children.
– Government forces: 229
– Russian forces: 11
– ISIS: 107
– Armed opposition factions: 13
– International Coalition forces: 285
– Other Parties: 73
– Kurdish Forces: 54
Former international prosecutor weighs in on YouTube deleting thousands of videos documenting Syrian Civil War
Daily Orange File Photo
In an attempt to rid extremist propaganda from its website, the Google-owned platform YouTube has removed thousands of videos documenting human atrocities occurring in the Middle East, according to CNN.
This past June, YouTube announced the transfer from workers monitoring its content to an advanced algorithm that identifies videos containing violent extremism and terrorism. The new technology has inadvertently deleted thousands of videos. Any content stemming from Syria, or various other conflict zones, are at a high risk of being deleted, according to The New York Times.
The Daily Orange spoke with David Crane, professor of practice at the Syracuse University College of Law, to discuss the implications of deleting such videos. Crane is a former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and founder of the Syrian Accountability Project.
The Daily Orange: To start off, can you talk about what kind of human atrocities are occurring in places like Syria?
David Crane: The conflict in Syria has been going on since March of 2011. It has consumed the lives of over half a million human beings, it has moved out of the country over 10 million human beings and it amounts to many international crimes — what we would call war crimes — and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by all sides.
The D.O.: What role do social media platforms, like YouTube, have in modern warfare?
D.C.: Well, it’s interesting. It’s a fascinating scenario. When I was the chief prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal in West Africa, we went and found the information out the old-fashioned way. There was no such thing — even as late as 2005 — as social media.
All of these social media outlets have really affected the investigation of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide throughout the world in both a positive and a negative way. YouTube is just one of the social media (platforms) that collects, records and puts out on social media information related to war crimes … It’s a new challenge for international prosecutors like myself, as what to do with all of this information. Most of which is not useable in the court of law. So, that’s in a general sense my point.
The D.O.: Recently, YouTube changed its policy from workers manually taking down videos to an advanced algorithm that does it for them. This occurred in June, and since then thousands of videos documenting humanitarian crises have been deleted. What do you think are the immediate implications of removing such videos?
D.C.: What ends up happening is, instead of the consumer deciding whether to look at (the video) or not, we now have an arbitrary decision made by an algorithm that keeps it from the consumer, whether that be someone just interested in Syria, an investigator or a nongovernmental organization using that information for consideration for action.
The arbitrariness of it bothers me. I think it should be left to the consumer and the user of the data versus an algorithm. What ends up happening is that we don’t know what we don’t know.
Someone takes a video of an atrocity taking place in northern Iraq, Kurdistan or something in South Sudan or in Syria … a lot of times YouTube is very useful. You may hear of an incident and go on YouTube and actually see the incident itself, which confirms just in a general way that the incident took place. But, you know, sometimes we don’t even know if something took place now.
The D.O.: One way that YouTube has dealt with the backlash of removing videos is by reinstating them but with an 18-year-old age restriction. Do you think that this suffices? Or, do you think that there are negative implications of creating this image of an “adult-only” war?
D.C.: I’d rather have it the way they have compromised rather than completely shutting it off. It is gruesome. It is difficult. I don’t have a problem with an age restriction based on the content. I’m willing to have that compromise if it allows us to then have the adult consumer have the ability to observe and use this data.
The D.O.: What are the long-term effects of deleting so many of these videos?
D.C.: Well, then we don’t have them. And so we have potential corroborative information that could be of use to those who are cataloging, archiving or investigating war crimes taking place, wherever that may be around the world.
Syria war crimes prosecutor vows justice for atrocities
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed a French judge after UN General Assembly took rare action
War crimes prosecutors have set to work to establish cases against those accused of some of Syria’s worst atrocities, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, the judge who will run the unit, has revealed.
The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism was created on the orders of the United Nation General Assembly. Mrs Marchi-Uhel, who was appointed to head the body last July by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, has served as an international judge in Kosovo, Cambodia and at the war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia.
“It is tasked with collecting, consolidating, preserving and analysing information and evidence,” she said of the body. “On the other hand, with preparing 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.”
Speaking in Geneva, she said the creation of the mechanism would promote prosecutions of the most serious violations in Syria. Its mandate was to “avoid perpetrators enjoying impunity”.
The team of some 50 people includes lawyers, analysts and computer specialists, some of whom will have to be Arabic speakers to study and analyse all the information collected about the crimes committed in Syria.
“We are talking about crimes against humanity, war crimes, attacks on schools or hospitals, summary executions, violence against women or children,” she said.
She said experience shows that when a prosecutor or an examining magistrate begins to gather evidence in a file, there is an “effect” on the situation.
Mrs Marchi-Uhel promised to work closely with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria. It publishes a report on its findings every six months and has concluded that all the warring parties have used torture, arbitrary executions or other atrocities.
The UN General Assembly in December set up the international panel to help collect evidence to be used in future cases of war crimes prosecution in a vote of all members in December.
The deaths of more than 320,000 people in Syria have been examined by the UN Commission of Inquiry that has documented cases of torture, summary killings and other atrocities by all sides in the conflict.
The French national previously worked as the ombudsman for a Security Council committee that deals with the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda.
The Swiss judge Carla Del Ponte quit the commission in July, decrying the lack of political backing for its work. “We are powerless, there is no justice for Syria,” she said.
“Everyone in Syria is on the bad side. The Assad government has perpetrated horrible crimes against humanity and used chemical weapons. And the opposition is now made up of extremists and terrorists.”