Thursday, November 07, 2013


We issue our regular monthly report on Syrian war dead from the NCF's chief Syria analyst, Shree Wood. We record just about 2958 as having been killed in the last month we have data for, the month of September, of whom just 662 were pro government combatants and 888 were rebels. Shree's report follows below and includes a comment on the casualty figures for the chemical attack in Damascus. Full background data in detail as compiled by the NCF analysing all available source data on a day to day basis can be found on this link

The line graph below is a timeline which helps to depict the rise and decline in the death figures over the last 13 months from September 2012 to September 2013. 

The two and a half year conflict in Syria has now seen the death of hundreds of thousands on both sides. According to the UN and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Recently Senator John McCain said that "The fact is Bashar al-Assad has massacred 100,000 people", however it should be pointed out that Bashar al-Assad is not solely responsible for the figures. The Assad government and the rebels are both responsible for the high casualty numbers and a significant proportion of the dead are government casualties. This does not excuse the al-Assad government's actions but it does highlight significant inaccuracy and the exaggeration when politicians quote statistics. 

The war has taken a heavy toll on both sides. Many of the civilian casualties are the result of indiscriminate shelling of residential areas by both rebel and government forces. Many of the organisations reporting casualties tabulate their figures based on a network of personal contacts throughout the country and many will only verify a death when more than one source has been quoted and there is photographic or video evidence available. However, there are still no verifiable figures for the very high death figures reported by the US government in the chemical attacks that took place on 21st August.

The most recent rebel and government casualties are from suicide bombings and fightings associated with the storming of military bases and fortifications. There have also been reports of civilian massacres of pro-Assad Allawites by rebels but there is little evident to substantiate these claims. Meanwhile, the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic is investigating human rights abuses in Syria. The Commission was established by the UN Human Rights Council on 22nd August 2011 to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in Syria. 

The Commission are looking into the worsening pattern of violence against civilians including executions and hospitals bombings, as government troops battle to recapture lost territories and military bases from the rebels including Islamist foreign fighters who have themselves also carried out war crimes. In its latest report to the Human Rights Council, the Commission states, "The perpetrators of these violations and crimes, on all sides, act in defiance of international law. They do not fear accountability. Referral to justice is imperative."

The Commission also went on to comment that, "Relentless shelling has killed thousands of civilians and displaced the populations of entire towns. Massacres and other unlawful killings are perpetrated with impunity. An untold number of men, children and women have disappeared. Many are killed in detention; survivors live with physical and mental scares of torture. Hospitals and schools have been bombarded."

The Commission has already produced four reports exposing human rights abuses committed throughout the country based on the interviews and statements from over 1,400 witnesses and victims. The Commission which has been denied entry into Syria, has been conducting these interviews in camps and hospitals with Syrian refugees based in Syria's neighbouring states. Some interviews have even been conducted via Skype, emails and telephone calls. 

This severely limits the Commission's ability to gather facts and build a complete picture of the situation. So the accuracy of the Commission's findings and reports are questionable. A confidential list of suspected criminal is being produced by the commission and kept under lock and key by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

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