58. In December 2013, a mass grave containing the bodies of at least four adult men and one boy was found on the ground of the El-Beifat poultry farm outside of Khanat Assan. The bodies were said to belong to El-Abdullah family, who had been abducted from Khanat Assan on 2 December. A video, released later by an armed group, showed foreign fighters in army uniforms, speaking Chechnyan. They displayed no flags or insignia and did not state whether they belonged to ISIS or another armed group.
Hreitan, Aleppo, a date prior to 14 February 2014
59. Several mass graves were found on the grounds of the Secondary Institute of Electricity, which also served as ISIS’s headquarters until it was forced out by anti-Government armed groups on 14 February. The dead were adult men. It is not clear how they were killed. Further, it has not been possible to determine the length of time that the bodies had been buried or the approximate date of death.
60. Another mass grave, containing the bodies of nine fighters from anti-Government armed groups, was found at Al-Malah farms, near Hreitan. The bodies were dumped in a well on the property.
61. Government forces stationed around eastern Ghouta, namely elite units including the 4th Division, Republican Guard and 3rd Division, committed the war crime of attacking civilians on 14 and 18 of December 2013. The victims of the attacks were easy targets to the perpetrators who were positioned in checkpoints blocking all routes out of eastern Ghouta. The sequence of events around the efforts to negotiate the opening of roads demonstrates that the civilians attempting to leave the besieged area were the object of the attack.
62. The war crime of attacking civilians was committed by Government forces in the context of the offensive on Qalamoun (Rif Damascus) during March 2014. During the documented barrel bomb attacks on civilians in Hay Al-Qaa and Hawsh Arab, there was no military equipment or personnel near the victims’ homes at the time and place of the incident.
63. The war crime of attacking civilians was committed by Government forces throughout the military campaign on Aleppo city and Rif Aleppo. Between 18 January and 16 June, 23 documented instances of aerial bombardment amounted to the war crime of attacking civilians. In addition to reckless disregard to the possibility that the barrel bombs would hit, kill and maim civilians, the collected information shows that the Syrian armed forces attacked civilians, men and women, children and elderly in particular while engaged in typical civilian activities. In all the incidents documented, the information reveals that civilians or civilian objects were directly targeted, resulting in substantial civilian casualties and that the fire was not aimed at any possibly military target. Where military targets were present, they were located at a substantial distance or confined to an easily identifiable position.
64. In most incidents, multiple barrel bombs were dropped consecutively, ensuring maximum damage to their targets. Several attacks demonstrated that the Syrian air forces deliberately targeted civilian rescuers who rushed to help the victims of the first strikes. Such follow-up attacks clearly indicate that civilians were the object of the bombardments. The documented attacks constitute examples of a campaign of attacks against civilians in Aleppo. The gravity of the attacks, established by their scale, pattern and virtually continuous repetition over a six-month period indicates that the war crimes of attacking civilians were committed as part of a plan or policy. The attacks amounted to area bombardment and constituted a large-scale attack on the civilian population of non-State armed group-controlled districts of Aleppo city and Rif Aleppo.
65. The war crime of attacking civilians was committed by Government forces in Dara’a governorate in the course of its aerial bombardment campaign in incidents occurring between 12 February and 18 June 2014. The pervasive and consistent nature of the barrel bomb attacks and their perpetration resulted in the terrorization of the inhabitants of Dara’a. The documented incidents are examples of the aerial campaign on non-State armed group-controlled areas of Dara’a governorate, which have killed and wounded countless civilians during daily activities or while in their homes. Follow-up attacks targeting civilian rescuers and first responders and attacks targeting internally displaced persons demonstrate the deliberate nature of the bombardment.
66. The war crime of murder was committed in massacres perpetrated by anti-Government armed groups, namely by Jabhat al-Nusra and Jaysh al-Islam in Adra (Rif Damascus) in December 2013, by Jaysh al-Islam, Jabhat al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa in Ma’an (Hama) in December 2013, Jabhat al-Nusra in Aleppo in January 2014, Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa al-Qasa in Ma’an (Hama) in February 2014, and by a group affiliated by Jabhat al-Nusra in Al-Salamiya (Hama) in April 2014. In all documented incidents, anti-Government armed groups killed civilians or persons hors de combat in close quarters.
67. The war crime of attacking civilians was perpetrated by armed groups stationed in Jobar (Rif Damascus) on 29 April 2014 in their attack on Badr al-Din al-Husseini Institute in the Old City of Damascus. The institute is located in a civilian neighbourhood with no military targets in its vicinity. Civilians, in particular children attending the institute, were the object of the attack. The attack followed a pattern of shelling of schoolyards in Damascus demonstrating the deliberate and calculated nature of the attack.
68. The war crime of attacking civilians was committed by Jabhat al-Nusra and other unidentified armed groups in their car bomb attacks on Government-controlled neighbourhoods of Homs city between 6 March and 19 June 2014. The attacks did not target any military objectives, nor was there any military equipment or personnel near the sites of the attacks. The double car bombings in Karm Al-Louz on 9 April and in Al-Abassiya on 29 April were clearly intended to cause mass civilian casualties with the second car bombs targeting the civilian rescuers and first responders helping the victims of the first attacks. The nine documented attacks formed part of single campaign of spreading terror among the civilian population of Homs city by Jabhat al-Nusra.
69. The war crime of murder and the war crime of execution without due process were committed by ISIS in Aleppo in early January, in Ar Raqqah city (Ar Raqqah) in April and in Al-Talaliyah (Al-Hasakah) in May 2014. The execution of the victims, usually accused of affiliation with other armed groups, was linked to the ongoing non-international armed conflict in Syria. In its public display of bodies and failure to honourably inter the bodies in accordance with the rites of the religion of the deceased, ISIS has violated customary international humanitarian law. ISIS carried out public executions to instil terror among the population, ensuring submission to its authority.
70. ISIS has committed acts of violence against the civilian population under its control in Al-Raqqah and eastern Aleppo governorates. This is a continuation – and a geographic expansion – of the widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population identified in A/HRC/25/65. ISIS, a structured group, directs and organises these acts of violence against civilians, evincing an organisational policy. While the victims appear to be largely hors de combat fighters, the unlawful killings in Al-Raqqah and identified localities in Aleppo governorates, detailed above, form part of this attack. In perpetrating these killings, ISIS has committed the crime against humanity of murder.
71. Where neither the perpetrator nor the circumstances of the deaths could be determined, incidents remain under investigation.
1. The healthcare system has been severely affected in the course of military operations carried out by Government forces, as well as through a deliberate and systematic campaign to persecute medical staff treating anyone perceived to be opposing the Government. The prevention of access to healthcare continues to be used to punish and subdue civilians residing in armed group-held or contested areas, or persons perceived to be affiliated with armed opposition groups.
2. Healthcare infrastructure and medical facilities in contested areas have been damaged in hostilities and destroyed by targeted attacks. The flight of healthcare professionals owing to fear of arrest, and the death and injury of medical staff has left armed group-controlled areas without adequate medical care. The continued denial and removal of medical supplies from humanitarian aid deliveries and the collapse of the country’s pharmaceutical industry have further worsened the provision of medical care.
3. Medical functions continue to be targeted as part of a broader assault on civilians. During the Government’s offensive on Yabroud (Rif Damascus) in early February, a hospital in which internally displaced persons were seeking shelter was shelled, killing three and injuring seven people. As the military operation escalated, medical clinics were targeted and destroyed on 15 and 16 March. On 15 May, Government forces dropped two consecutive vacuum bombs on Radwan field hospital in Jasem (Dara’a), destroying the facility. Four medical personnel and two children were killed, and more than 15 were critically injured. This facility was the sole source of medical care in Jasem. Residents described how the hospital’s destruction and resulting lack of medical care led to an increase in infant mortality.
4. During the military campaign on Aleppo, Government forces attacked medical facilities to achieve military advantage. In eight documented attacks between early February and 24 June, Government forces dropped barrel bombs on M10 Trauma Field Hospital in Masakin Hanano, Aleppo city. Doctors and patients were killed in the attacks, which damaged crucial infrastructure such as operating rooms and the intensive care unit, as well as life-saving equipment. These attacks have severely limited access to medical care in Masakin Hanano during the barrel bombing campaign on northeastern Aleppo, depriving those injured in Government attacks on Sheikh Najar Industrial Area and around Aleppo Central Prison of medical treatment.
5. On 12 April, Al-Zarzour Hospital, which provides medical treatment for opposition forces based in Al-Ramoussa, Al-Azizia and Al-Layramoun, was targeted by two consecutive barrel bombs. The hospital serves the most heavily bombarded opposition-held districts in Aleppo city, including Al-Ansari al-Sharqi, Al-Sukkari, Bustan Al-Qasr, Salah Al-Din and Al-Mashahed. It was further damaged on 7 May and 18 June, when helicopters dropped a barrel bomb 200-400 metres away.
6. Al-Sakhour Hospital, one of the few remaining medical facilities in eastern Aleppo, was hit by a barrel bomb on 7 February, killing two and injuring 16 people, including four medical staff. In June, Al-Sakhour Hospital suffered seven barrel bomb and missile attacks, causing significant damage to medical equipment and the partial destruction of the facility. Four medical staff were injured in the attacks. Following an attack on 23 June, the hospital was temporarily closed. The attacks severely limited access to medical care in opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo.
7. On the morning of 13 April, a barrel bomb hit the M1 Trauma Hospital in Aleppo, destroying its top floor. The same day, a barrel bomb hit Al-Daqqaq Hospital in Al-Shaar, causing significant damage to its operating rooms, water and sewage infrastructure. On 24 June, Bab Al-Hadid field hospital was attacked by missiles, injuring two patients and damaging equipment. Omar bin Abdulaziz Hospital in central Aleppo city was severely damaged on 5 July by a barrel bomb dropped in its vicinity. In Idlib, Bab Al-Hawa field hospital was hit by two consecutive missiles on 7 June, damaging the facility infrastructure.
8. Across the country, field hospitals and makeshift clinics are concealed in underground cellars and basements. Medical staff at a field hospital in Quneitra noted they do not mark the location with a red cross or red crescent emblem since “once the regime learns where the hospital is, they will attack it.”
9. Government forces and authorities acted in disrespect for medical ethics and the duty of health workers to treat the sick and wounded regardless of affiliation. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and paramedics arrested and disappeared in 2011 and 2012 continued to be detained or their whereabouts remain unknown. A field hospital doctor detained in Damascus in spring 2013 for aiding the opposition continues to be imprisoned in the Air Force Intelligence Branch at Mezzeh Airport. A nurse working in Douma Hospital, arrested in October 2013 for treating wounded members of the armed opposition, died in the custody of Syrian authorities. In May, his parents were informed of his death and burial in Najha cemetery (Rif Damascus) and instructed to retrieve his identification and belongings from a hospital in Damascus.
10. Attacks on medical personnel and facilities violate common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and customary international humanitarian law and amount to war crimes. The frequency of attacks on medical facilities in opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo city and governorate is indicative of a deliberate policy. Government forces target healthcare infrastructure with the apparent intention of depriving civilians and fighters injured in Government offensives of medical treatment, increasing the loss of life and the number of persons maimed, wounded or killed. Humanitarian workers continue to be targeted in grave violation of international humanitarian law, hampering the operations of aid organizations.
2. Non-State armed groups
Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham
11. In January, a nurse working at a hospital in Byanoon (Aleppo) was abducted by ISIS while transporting a wounded patient. In late January, ISIS detained a pediatrician working for an international NGO in Jarabulus (Aleppo). In early February, three medical staff from a field hospital in Al-Bab (Aleppo) were detained by ISIS and brought in front of a shari’a court before being released. These incidents fit a previously documented pattern of ISIS detaining doctors in contravention of the customary international humanitarian law rule that under no circumstances shall any person be punished for carrying out medical activities.
12. ISIS fighters occupied Al-Jabal Hospital in Al-Bab in January, and have converted the operation rooms to a detention facility. Using hospitals outside their humanitarian function prevents the impartial provision of medical treatment, endangers patients and medical professionals, and compromises the humanitarian function of medical facilities. This has a grave impact on the fulfilment of the obligation under common article 3 to care for the sick and wounded. Failing to respect the emblems of the Geneva Conventions undermines their protective purpose.
13. Journalists continue to be systematically targeted by ISIS. Two foreign journalists were detained by ISIS in Tal Abyad, (Ar Raqqah) after they explained that they were reporting on the ongoing conflict. They were subsequently interrogated and ill-treated in various ISIS detention facilities until late March 2014. On 29 April, ISIS executed a journalist in Tal Abyad. The detention and killing of journalists violates international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.
14. Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic Front fighters stationed near the Old City of Aleppo continue to fire improvised gas-canister explosives at the Citadel, targeting Government snipers stationed within. On 8 May, Ahrar al-Sham fighters remotely detonated explosives packed into a tunnel dug underneath the Citadel, allegedly used as a base for Government soldiers. On 31 May, they detonated a similar tunnel bomb near the Zahrawi market next to the Citadel. Repeated underground high-magnitude shockwaves have caused structural damage to the thirteenth century Citadel, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
15. The whereabouts of the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, abducted in Aleppo in April 2013, and of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, abducted in Ar Raqqah city in January 2014, remain unknown. Dozens of journalists, both foreign and Syrian, remain in captivity, detained incommunicado because of their professional activities. Religious personnel and civilian journalists enjoy specific protection under international humanitarian law and must be respected and protected by all parties.
Map of the Syrian Arab Republic
**Los anexos del presente informe se distribuyen tal como se recibieron, en el idioma en que se presentaron únicamente.
1 La comisión está integrada por Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Presidente), Karen Koning AbuZayd, Vitit Muntarbhorn y Carla Del Ponte.
2 S-17/2/Add.1, A/HRC/19/69, A/HRC/21/50, A/HRC/22/59, A/HRC/23/58, A/HRC/24/46 y A/HRC/25/65.
3 Por "fuerzas gubernamentales", a menos que se indique lo contrario, se entenderá las compuestas por las Fuerzas Armadas Sirias, las fuerzas de inteligencia y las milicias locales y extranjeras vinculadas con ellas, como Hizbollah, los shabbiha y los comités populares o Fuerzas de Defensa Nacional.