Crimes

Premeditated murder and mass killing


These crimes have been documented by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the independent, international commission of inquiry established by council resolution S-17/1 of 23 August 2011.

November 29, 2018


Premeditated murder and mass killing

Pro-justice: The Judicial Committee


Since March 2011, Syrian government forces have carried out widespread, systematic and indiscriminate mass killings of civilians using all kinds of weaponry, including air fighters, ballistic missiles, barrel bombs and chemical weapons.

These crimes have been documented by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the independent, international commission of inquiry established by council resolution S-17/1 of 23 August 2011.

As early as March 2011, the Syrian government has used violent suppression against unarmed protesters, with security forces firing live rounds directly at demonstrators. Officials, anticipating public backlash for the heavy response, falsely and purposefully stated victims were attacked by “armed groups.” Officials also forced families of victims to claim that “terrorist armed groups,” not government security forces, were responsible for the death of their loved ones. Such actions by the Syrian government have been documented through testimonies from many former judges and forensic medical experts who defected from the Syrian regime.

As the popular anti-government movement intensified, security forces responded with an increase in the number of civilian arrests. The number of cases involving arbitrary detention and forced disappearance soon exceeded 800,000. Around 250 thousand of these cases were documented, while hundreds of thousands of others remained unreported by victims’ families, often for fear of government retaliation against their imprisoned relatives. By not officially disclosing information about the arrest of their loved ones, families believed they were in fact helping them to stay alive in prison. Oftentimes, instead of following legal channels, families handed large sums of money to government officials to have their relatives set free.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented around 14,000 cases of extra-judicial killing by the Syrian government. Those cases do not include the names of 10,000 detainees known to have died in Syria’s prisons; names which Damascus officials only recently began releasing to the public in early in 2018. These lists included the identification of 1,300 missing people killed from torture inside these prisons. Syrian authorities forged medical certificates claiming victims had passed away by death from natural causes, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure or even asthma. Officials have not provided information about the place of death and have refused to return victims’ bodies to their families.

Over the past seven years, sectarian militias recruited by the Syrian government have killed a recorded 3,028 Syrian civilians, including 531 children and 472 women. Those militias, nurtured by the authorities, perpetrated more than 50 sectarian massacres throughout different Syrian provinces. Homs has witnessed the brunt of this sectarian violence, serving as the stage for 22 massacres which left 1,040 civilians dead, including 209 children and 200 women. In Hama, sectarian militias carried out eight massacres, killing 197 civilians, including 40 women and children. Seven other massacres took place in the provinces of Daraa, Tartous, Idleb, and Deir ez-Zor – the collective death toll of which numbered 769 civilians.

Yahia al-Akash, an eye-witness from the village of Houla, in Homs province, described to Judge Khaled Shehabiddeen what he witnessed on the day of the infamous Houla Massacre on 25 May 2012:

“At 2:00 p.m., the Assayyed and Abdul-Razzak families from the Tal-Daw area had no idea of the horror awaiting them. On the Saad Road, the entire 83-member family of Abdul-Razzak was murdered. They were slaughtered with knives at the hands of Alawite and Shia residents from the areas of Western Ghor, Fulla, and al-Qabu, aided by the criminal security forces. Around the same time, on the Homs–Houla Highway, close to the Military Security branch, 50 members of the Assayyed family were slaughtered by the same criminals and with the same weapons. The only survivor was an infant girl from the Kurdi family; who remained on the chest of her slaughtered mother. That girl is still alive.”

Below are the most prominent massacres perpetrated by the Syrian government and its allied militias in the year 2011:

  1. On 29 April 2011, government forces carried out the large-scale massacre of civilians in Daraa, close to the military housing district. A large number of protesters were killed when armed forces opened fire directly on the group. Later, survivors were tortured to death in detention facilities, including the well-known case of the child Hamza al-Khateeb. The number of victims exceeded 300.
  2. On 4 August 2011, government forces laid siege to the city of Hama before storming its neighborhoods and killing more than 200 civilians.
  3. On 9 March 2012, government forces killed 47 civilians as its troops raided the village of Karm al-Zaytoun in the province of Homs.
  4. On 5 April 2012, government forces executed 62 civilians in the village of Taftanaz in the province of Idleb.
  5. On 6 June 2012, government forces stormed the village of Al-Qubeir in the province of Hama, killing 100 civilians, including 20 women and 20 children.
  6. On 12 July 2012, after heavily shelling the village of Al-Treimseh in rural Hama, government forces raided the residential area and perpetrated a massacre, killing more than 200 civilians. Many were burned to death or executed on the spot.
  7. Between 20–25 August 2012, government forces imposed a blockade around the city of Darayya in the Damascus Countryside. The forces bombarded the city and stormed its neighborhoods, killing more than 500 civilians. Government forces also prevented ambulances from entering the city to assist victims.
  8. On 20 September 2012, Syrian air forces conducted an airstrike on a gas station in the town of Ain Issa in the province of Raqqa, killing 55 civilians.
  9. On 13 October 2012, government forces executed 65 civilians in the village of Maarrat al-Numan.
  10. Between 1 January–14 March 2013, more than 230 bodies were found on the bank of the Queik River in Aleppo. The victims were gagged and handcuffed and displayed signs of torture. All of them had been shot in the head.
  11. Between 16– 21 April 2013, government forces carried out massacres in the towns of Jdaidet al-Fadel and Jdaidet Artouz in the Damascus Countryside, killing more than 500 people in indiscriminate shelling and field executions. Many of the bodies were burned or mutilated and were denied burial.
  12. Over 2–3 May 2013, government forces stormed the town of Al-Bayda in the city of Baniyas, Tartous province, killing more than 72 civilians.
  13. On 21 August 2013, government forces deployed chemical weapons against the Ghouta region in the Damascus Countryside, killing around 1,600 people, mostly children.

Over the course of 2014, Syrian security forces and allied local and foreign paramilitary groups perpetrated the following massacres:

  • January: 36 massacres killing 444 civilians, including 136 children and 62 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (28); Homs (4); Damascus Countryside (2); Daraa (1); and Hama (1).
  • February: 47 massacres killing 646 civilians including 157 children and 94 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (32); Hama (4); Idleb (3); and the Damascus Countryside (3).
  • March: 20 massacres killing 171 civilians, including 39 children and 16 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (9); Damascus Countryside (4); Idleb (4); Damascus (1); Hama (1); and Daraa (1).
  • April: 33 massacres killing 394 civilians, including 142 children and 61 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (20); Damascus Countryside (7); Homs (3); Damascus (1); Idleb (1); and Daraa (1).
  • May: 32 massacres killing 317 civilians, including 96 children and 47 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (17); Deraa (6); Idleb (4); Damascus Countryside (2); Hama (2); and Homs (1).
  • June: 32 massacres killing 368 civilians, including 98 children and 50 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (14); Damascus Countryside (8); Idleb (4); Deir ez-Zor (3); Damascus (1); Raqqa (1); and Daraa (1).
  • July: 25 massacres killing 217 civilians, including 64 children and 38 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (13); Daraa (4); Damascus Countryside (3); Idleb (2); Raqqa (1); Deir ez-Zor (1); and Hama (1).
  • August: 39 massacres killing 438 civilians, including 126 children and 67 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (12); Idleb (7); Damascus Countryside (6); Daraa (5); Hama (4); Raqqa (2); Homs (2); and Deir ez-Zor (1).
  • September: 25 massacres killing 504 civilians, including 109 children and 76 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (7); Aleppo (6); Deir ez-Zor (4); Idleb (3); Raqqa (2); Homs (2); and Hama (1).
  • October: 26 massacres killing 393 civilians, including 162 children and 50 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (7); Idleb (7); Daraa (6); Homs (5); and Aleppo (1).
  • November: 31 massacres killing 365 civilians, including 82 children and 48 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Raqqa (6); Aleppo (5); Daraa (5); Hama (4); Damascus Countryside (3); Idleb (3); Deir ez-Zor (2); Homs (2); and Damascus (1).
  • December: 32 massacres killing 341 civilians, including 79 children and 40 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (8); Idleb (6); Aleppo (4); Daraa (4); Raqqa (4); Deir ez-Zor (3); Homs (2); and Hama (1).

Over the course of 2015, Syrian security forces and allied local and foreign paramilitary groups perpetrated the following massacres:

  • January: 16 massacres killing 195 civilians, including 32 children and 21 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (5); Aleppo (3); Homs (2); Daraa (2); Deir ez-Zor (1); Idleb (1); Hassakeh (1); and Hama (1).
  • February: 34 massacres killing 434 civilians, including 91 children and 73 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (17); Aleppo (5); Idleb (4); Daraa (2); Deir ez-Zor (3); and Lattakia (1).
  • March: 32 massacres killing 340 civilians, including 102 children and 49 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Idleb (10); Damascus Countryside (9); Daraa (6); Aleppo (3); Deir ez-Zor (3); and Homs (1).
  • April: 50 massacres killing 492 civilians, including 108 children and 79 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Idleb (19); Aleppo (11); Daraa (7); Damascus Countryside (4); Homs (3); Hama (3); Deir ez-Zor (1); Hassakeh (1); and Raqqa (1).
  • May: 38 massacres killing 498 civilians, including 118 children and 70 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (14); Idleb (8); Deir ez-Zor (8); Damascus Countryside (3); Daraa (3); Hama (2); and Homs (2).
  • June: 33 massacres killing 398 civilians, including 122 children and 77 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (14); Idleb (7); Homs (5), Damascus Countryside (3); Daraa (2); Deir ez-Zor (1); and Hassakeh (1).
  • July: 52 massacres killing 476 civilians, including 121 children and 70 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (24); Idleb (9); Daraa (7); Damascus Countryside (5); Hama (3); Homs (2); and Deir ez-Zor (2).
  • August: 43 massacres killing 582 civilians, including 112 children and 73 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (19); Idleb (13); Aleppo (4); Homs (3); Hama (2); Daraa (1); and Deir ez-Zor (1).
  • September: 31 massacres killing 338 civilians, including 106 children and 51 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (7); Homs (7); Damascus Countryside (6); Idleb (5); Deir ez-Zor (4); and Daraa (2).
  • October: 29 massacres killing 372 civilians, including 97 children and 43 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (11); Aleppo (7); Homs (6); Idleb (3); Hama (1); and Deir ez-Zor (1).
  • November: 19 massacres killing 185 civilians, including 38 children and 32 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (6); Daraa (5); Deir ez-Zor (3); Idleb (2); Homs (2); and Aleppo (1).
  • December: 25 massacres killing 304 civilians including 96 children and 38 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (16); Idleb (4); Homs (2); Deir ez-Zor (1); Daraa (1); and Hama (1).

Over the course of 2016, Syrian security forces and allied local and foreign paramilitary groups perpetrated the following massacres:

  • January: 22 massacres killing 172 civilians, including 44 children and 34 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (10); Idleb (6); Homs (3); Hama (2); and Deir ez-Zor (1).
  • February: 13 massacres killing 95 civilians, including 30 children and 23 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (5); Idleb (4); Daraa (2); Homs (1); and Aleppo (1).
  • March: 11 massacres killing 132 civilians, including 35 children and 25 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (3); Deir ez-Zor (2); Raqqa (2); Homs (2); Aleppo (1); and Idleb (1).
  • April: 19 massacres killing 202 civilians, including 45 children and 20 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Raqqa (2); Deir ez-Zor (3); Damascus Countryside (3); Aleppo (6); Homs (2); Idleb (2), and Hama (1).
  • May: 16 massacres killing 137 civilians, including 46 children and 26 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Idleb (5); Homs (4); Damascus Countryside (2); Aleppo (2); Deir ez-Zor (2); and Raqqa (1).
  • June: 24 massacres killing 315 civilians, including 112 children and 57 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Idleb (8); Raqqa (5); Deir ez-Zor (4); Damascus Countryside (3); Homs (2); Aleppo (1); and Hama (1).
  • July: 34 massacres killing 337 civilians, including 89 children and 57 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Idleb (9); Aleppo (7); Damascus Countryside (7); Homs (4); Deir ez-Zor (2); Hama (2); and Daraa (3).
  • August: 32 massacres killing 263 civilians, including 73 children and 36 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Idleb (11); Aleppo (9); Damascus Countryside (6); Homs (2); Deir ez-Zor (1); Hassakeh (1); Raqqa (1); and Hama (1).
  • September: 26 massacres killing 211 civilians, including 65 children and 25 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (8); Damascus Countryside (5); Deir ez-Zor (5); Idleb (3); Hama (3); Daraa (1); and Raqqa (1).
  • October: 13 massacres killing 106 civilians, including 44 children and 19 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (6); Idleb (3); Homs (1); Hama (1); Daraa (1); and Deir ez-Zor (1).
  • November: 27 massacres killing 254 civilians, including 102 children and 39 women. Damascus Countryside (8); Idleb (6); Aleppo (5); Deir ez-Zor (3); Daraa (2); Hama (1); and Homs (1).
  • December: 18 massacres killing 215 civilians, including 78 children and 36 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Idleb (9); Damascus Countryside (3); Deir ez-Zor (2); Aleppo (1); Homs (1); Daraa (1); and Hama (1).

Over the course of 2017, Syrian security forces and allied local and foreign paramilitary groups perpetrated the following massacres, the most heinous of which was the chemical attack on 4 April in Khan Sheikhoun, Idleb province:

  • January: Six massacres killing 48 civilians, including 21 children and eight women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Deir ez-Zor (3); Damascus Countryside (1); Homs (1); and Hama (1).
  • February: 13 massacres killing 109 civilians, including 37 children and 13 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (3); Idleb (3); Homs (2); Daraa (2); Raqqa (1); Damascus (1); and Hama (1).
  • March: 11 massacres killing 88 civilians, including 34 children and 19 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Idleb (4); Damascus Countryside (2); Hama (2); and Deir ez-Zor (2).
  • April: 11 massacres killing 184 civilians, including 64 children and 38 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (4); Idleb (2); Daraa (2); Deir ez-Zor (1); Homs (1); and Aleppo (1).
  • May: Nine massacres killing 85 civilians, including 36 children and 25 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Aleppo (3); Hama (2); Deir ez-Zor (2); Damascus Countryside (1); and Homs (1).
  • June: 11 massacres killing 88 civilians, including 41 children and 12 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Deir ez-Zor (6); Daraa (3); and Hama (1).
  • July: 10 massacres killing 95 civilians, including 43 children and 19 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Deir ez-Zor (5); Damascus Countryside (1); Raqqa (1); and Suweida (1).
  • August: Five massacres killing 29 civilians, including 11 children and eight women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (2); Deir ez-Zor (2); and Hama (1).
  • September: 18 massacres killing 177 civilians, including 53 children and 37 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Deir ez-Zor (11); Idleb (3); Damascus Countryside (2); Hama (2); and Homs (1).
  • October: 11 massacres killing 93 civilians, including 28 children and 20 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Deir ez-Zor (3); Idleb (1); Damascus Countryside (1); and Hama (1).
  • November: 16 massacres killing 123 civilians, including 37 children and 18 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (4); Deir ez-Zor (3).
  • December: Nine massacres killing 65 civilians, including 20 children and four women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (2); Deir ez-Zor (1); and Idleb (1).

Over the course of January­–April 2018, Syrian security forces and allied local and foreign paramilitary groups perpetrated the following massacres:

  • January: 11 massacres killing 94 civilians, including 36 children and 20 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (3); Idleb (1); and Aleppo (1).
  • February: 53 massacres killing 563 civilians including 158 children and 122 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (7); Aleppo (1); Idleb (1); and Hama (1).
  • March: 40 massacres killing 620 civilians, including 142 children and 105 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (10); and Idleb (1).
  • April: Six massacres killing 106 civilians including 22 children and 26 women. These massacres were distributed across the following provinces: Damascus Countryside (2); Homs (1): and Damascus (1).

The above figures were collected from databases compiled by Syrian human rights groups, including the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Legal Clinics initiative (a group of Syrian lawyers located in different provinces of Syria with the headquarters in Idleb province), and the Syrian Lawyers Commission (a group of judges and lawyers monitoring legal affairs related to the situation in Syria, documenting crimes, reviewing urgent legal developments, and providing analyses and legal documents for key developments). Pro-Justice retains copies of all the data documenting the above-mentioned massacres, including names of victims, and when and how the massacres were carried out. These documents were provided by the Syrian Network for Human Rights and the Legal Clinics.

The incidents laid out in this chapter provide only an example of the thousands of unlawful, premeditated crimes perpetrated by the Syrian government and its allied militias against civilians. These acts are classified as war crimes and are not subject to a statute of limitations, and are prosecutable under both Syrian and international law according to the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court.

I cannot find much information on the Commission. Could it be the correct translation is ‘Free Syrian Lawyers Association’?