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Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/51/45) [EN/AR/RU/ZH]

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Human Rights Council
Fifty-first session
12 September–7 October 2022
Agenda item 4
Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention


During the period under review, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic continued to document grave violations of fundamental human rights and humanitarian law across the country. In government-controlled areas, arbitrary detention, including torture and ill-treatment in incommunicado detention, also leading to death, remained systematic. Appalling conditions in displacement camps in the north-west of the country have left many with little choice but to return to their homes in frontline areas where active hostilities and indiscriminate attacks against civilians have claimed countless lives and targeted food and water resources. In the north-east, fighting continued with frequent mutual bombings by Turkish and Turkish-backed forces and by the Syrian Democratic Forces. The attack on Al-Sina’a prison, the biggest military operation by Da’esh since its territorial defeat in 2019, caused hundreds of deaths. The worsening conditions for some 37,000 children in the Hawl and Rawj camps were exacerbated by an increase in the number of murders and recurring armed clashes. The dire situation for Syrian civilians was compounded by the worst economic and humanitarian crisis the country has faced since start of conflict. The Syrian Arab Republic is still not a safe place to return.

I. Mandate and methodology

  1. In the present report, submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 49/27, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic1 presents its findings based on investigations conducted between 1 January and 30 June 2022.

  2. Pursuant to its established methodology and guided by standard practices of commissions of inquiry and human rights investigations, the Commission relied primarily on 501 first-hand interviews, conducted in person and remotely. Documents, reports, photographs, videos and satellite imagery from multiple sources were collected and analysed. 2 Communications from Governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were taken into consideration, as were reports of the United Nations. The Commission also requested, in writing and during meetings, information on incidents, events and developments from the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, parties to the conflict and States Members of the United Nations.3 The standard of proof was considered to be met when the Commission had reasonable grounds to believe that incidents occurred as described and, where possible, that violations were committed by the identified party.

  3. The investigations of the Commission remained curtailed by the denial of access to the country and by protection concerns in relation to interviewees. In all cases, the Commission remained guided by the principle “do no harm”.

  4. The Commission extends its thanks to all those who provided information, in particular victims and witnesses.

II. Political, military and humanitarian developments

  1. In late February, the Syrian Arab Republic entered its eleventh year of conflict,4 with increased threats of further military operations and terrorist activity. 5 The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that, from March 2011 to March 2021, 350,209 individual deaths were recorded as a result of the Syrian conflict, including 143,350 identified civilians.

  2. On 23 May, the announcement by President Erdogan of Türkiye of another planned incursion was followed by episodes of military escalation, mutual bombardment and mobilization by all parties, including in Tell Ri’fat, Menbij, Ain Issa and Tel Tamer. An attack launched by Da’esh on Al-Sina’a prison, in the north-east, on 20 January, revealed the capacity of the terrorist group to launch complex attacks and the threat it continues to pose.

  3. Insecurity continued in government-controlled areas, particularly in the south of the country. In Dar‘a, scores of killings of former opposition leaders, as well as military and security members of the Government, were recorded. The repositioning of Russian forces demonstrated the fragility of current security arrangements, as did the continued reliance on Government-affiliated militias and armed groups, who are implicated, among others, in a booming drug trade. In Idlib and western Aleppo, violence continued, with mutual shelling between pro-government forces and armed opposition groups including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations. 6 There was, however, a significant reduction in the number of airstrikes by pro-government forces.

  4. As an example of the daily dangers faced by civilians, 12,350 explosive ordnance and landmine incidents were reported country-wide from 2019 until April 2022. Recently, a landmine explosion on 11 June in Dar‘a reportedly killed 10 and injured 28 people. 7 The Syrian Government reported that it has removed “more than 50,000 explosive devices, 84,000 unexploded shells and 45,000 mines of various kinds, clearing some 735,000 ha of Syrian territory of mines and explosive ordnance”.

  5. In addition to the continuing war, Syrians are facing the culmination of over a decade of economic decline, exacerbated by corruption, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, unilateral sanctions and economic crises in Lebanon and Türkiye. The economic and humanitarian situation is at its worst since the start of the conflict, with an estimated 14.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The 800 per cent rise in food prices since 2020 has further limited the ability of humanitarian agencies to meet growing needs,9 as did the closure of Damascus airport after suspected Israeli airstrikes.10 In parts of the country there have been protests against the continued deterioration of living conditions.

  6. The Security Council, in its resolution 2642 (2022) of 12 July 2022, belatedly reauthorized cross-border aid through Bab al-Hawa for a period of only six months. The current authorization will expire in mid-winter, when needs are typically at their highest, and appropriate arrangements must be put in place.

  7. Despite some notable convictions in criminal proceedings in Europe,11 there was no comprehensive accountability for serious human rights violations and war crimes committed by the Syrian Government, armed groups, listed terrorist groups and foreign powers. On 27 April, footage was published in the media of executions by the Syrian Military Intelligence of at least 41 individuals in 2013 in Tadamon, serving as a sharp reminder of the atrocities that have been committed continuously throughout the conflict.

  8. Three days later, on 30 April, President Assad issued Legislative Decree No. 7, granting a general amnesty for terrorism crimes committed prior to its promulgation.12 While the announcement was accompanied by the welcome release of a number of detainees,13 it was also characterized by a lack of transparency. Syrian families are still seeking information about detained or missing loved ones.

  9. The Commission has continued to advocate for a body to consolidate claims filed with a wide variety of NGOs and humanitarian organizations in order to efficiently and effectively track and identify those missing and disappeared and to assist their families.14 At the time of writing, the Commission anticipates the imminent release of the report of the SecretaryGeneral requested by the General Assembly in its resolution 76/228 “on how to bolster efforts, including through existing measures and mechanisms, to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people”.