Thousands of civilians trapped in Raqqa, northern Syria, are coming under fire from all sides as the battle for control of the city enters its final stage, Amnesty International said following an in-depth investigation on the ground. The warring parties must prioritize protecting them from hostilities and creating safe ways for them to flee the frontline.
In a report released today, the organization documents how hundreds of civilians have been killed and injured since an offensive began in June to recapture the “capital” and main stronghold of the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS).
Survivors and witnesses told Amnesty International that they faced IS booby traps and snipers targeting anyone trying to flee, as well as a constant barrage of artillery strikes and airstrikes by the US-led coalition forces fighting alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) armed group. At the same time, survivors recounted how Russian-backed Syrian government forces also bombarded civilians in villages and camps south of the river, including with internationally banned cluster bombs.
Ahead of the appeal against a 10-year sentence handed down to a Syrian man for committing an “act of terror” during clashes with Hungarian border guards at a Serbia-Hungary border, an Amnesty International team is in court and available for interviews.
The man, a permanent resident of Cyprus who can only be identified as Ahmed H., was convicted in November. Ahmed admitted to throwing three objects at the Hungarian police during the clashes.
“The conviction of Ahmed H was a blatant misuse of terrorism provisions against a man who was helping his family flee Syria,” said Todor Gardos, Amnesty International’s Hungary researcher.
“This absurd verdict reflects the febrile atmosphere in Hungary where anti-terror powers have been ramped up amid a crackdown on the rights of migrants. Ahmed’s actions cannot credibly constitute an act of terrorism and his conviction should bequashed.”
Follow Amnesty International’s researchers@todorgardos and @demeteraaronfor updates.
Evidence gathered is suggesting a nerve agent was used in an air-launched chemical attack which killed more than 70 and injured hundreds of civilians in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern province of Idleb, Amnesty International revealed as the UN Security Council meets for an emergency meeting in New York this morning.
The organization is urging the Security Council to immediately adopt a resolution that will enforce the prohibition of chemical weapons attacks and facilitate bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.
“Security Council members, and in particular Russia and China, have displayed callous disregard for human life in Syria by repeatedly failing to pass resolutions that would allow for punitive measures to be taken against those committing war crimes and other serious violations in Syria,” said Anna Neistat, Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International.
A chilling new report by Amnesty International exposes the Syrian government’s calculated campaign of extrajudicial executions by mass hangings at Saydnaya Prison. Between 2011 and 2015, every week and often twice a week, groups of up to 50 people were taken out of their prison cells and hanged to death. In five years, as many as 13,000 people, most of them civilians believed to be opposed to the government, were hanged in secret at Saydnaya.
Human slaughterhouse: Mass hangings and extermination at Saydnaya prison, Syria also shows that the government is deliberately inflicting inhuman conditions on detainees at Saydnaya Prison through repeated torture and the systematic deprivation of food, water, medicine and medical care. The report documents how these extermination policies have killed massive numbers of detainees.
These practices, which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, are authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government.
The UN General Assembly (UNGA) must step in to fill the void left by the UN Security Council members’ catastrophic failure to end relentless attacks targeting the civilian population in eastern Aleppo city, said Amnesty International ahead of a UNGA meeting later today.
The organization has released new satellite imagery illustrating the scale of destruction, as well as testimony from civilians trapped in the city, providing evidence that Syrian government forces, with Russian support, have callously attacked residential homes, medical facilities, schools, markets and mosques as part of a deliberate military strategy to empty the city of its inhabitants and seize control. In some cases there is evidence that Russian-made cluster munitions were used in attacks.
Syria should immediately release the Human Rights Lawyer Khalil Ma’touq and his assistant, Mohamed Thatha, 31 human rights organizations said today, on the fourth anniversary of their enforced disappearance.
On October 2, 2012, the two men are believed to have been arrested at a government-operated checkpoint on their way from Ma’touq’s home in the Damascus suburb of Sahnaya to his office in Damascus. Despite repeated requests for information to the public prosecutor’s office in Damascus in 2012 and 2013 by family and colleagues, Syrian authorities have denied that they arrested the men.
Despite these denials, individuals released from the government’s custody in 2015 have informed Ma’touq’s family that while in detention they spotted him in various government-operated detention facilities, including State Security Branch 285 and Military Intelligence Branch 235 in Damascus. Since then, the family has not received any information on his whereabouts.
"Mohammad" arrived at the Canada-US at Fort Erie in early January. He is a 16 year old boy from Syria who came to Canada looking for protection. It is reported that he was immediately detained and held in isolation in an immigration holding centre in Toronto for three weeks. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has ordered that he be deported back to the United States. According to the Canada-US ‘Safe Third Country Agreement’ a refugee must make a refugee claim in the first country in which they arrive; either Canada or the United States. There is an exception to this agreement for unaccompanied minors, but the Canadian officials decided the exception did not apply in Mohammad’s case.
Horrific images and stories are emerging from Syria. Amnesty International has spoken to residents in the besieged town of Madaya in the Damascus Countryside governorate, and gathered fresh accounts of conditions in al-Fouaa and Kefraya in the Idleb Countryside governorate. The starving residents described how families are surviving on little more that foraged leaves and boiled water. The villages are due to resume receiving aid following a deal involving the Syrian government, struck on 7 January 2016.
These harrowing accounts of hunger represent the mere tip of an iceberg. Syrians are suffering and dying across the country because starvation is being used as a weapon of war by both the Syrian government and armed groups. By continuing to impose sieges on civilian areas and only sporadically allowing in aid at their whim they are fuelling a humanitarian crisis and toying with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
By Ina Strøm from Amnesty Norway
Resettlement is a lifeline open to some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. A young family from Syria tells us what a huge difference moving to Norway has made in their lives.
“The Norwegian authorities deliberately scheduled the call on Kahraman’s first birthday,” remembers Sherihan, a 29-year-old musician. “They said: ‘We have a gift for you. You can come to Norway!’. We didn’t know anything about Norway, but we were so happy.”
In a bright apartment in a modest 1950s building in a quiet corner of Oslo, Norway, she and her husband are teasing each other. “This is how I see Norway,” says Hennan, an artist aged 31: “Children come first, then the woman, then the dog, and at last the man!” They both laugh.
Blood-spattered pieces of bread
The happy scene is a million miles away from what they left behinhd in Aleppo, Syria. “Those days were hard,” says Hennan. “I saw a man being shot by snipers on the way from the bakery.