Understand the crimes accused of the Syrian regime G1

Understand the crimes accused of the Syrian regime G1

1 of 1 Syrian President Bashar alAssad greets soldiers in East Guta Photo: Sana/Portal Syrian President Bashar alAssad greets soldiers in East Guta Photo: Sana/Portal

After more than a decade of suspension, Syria was admitted back to the Arab League, the foreign ministers of the member countries decided at an extraordinary meeting last Sunday (May 7) in Cairo.

However, numerous international sources and reports confirm that Bashar alAssad’s government has been responsible for crimes against humanity, among other things, since the outbreak of civil war in 2011. DW gives an overview of the main violations.

Poison gas, chemical weapons, barrel bombs

Damascus has been accused for years of using war gas against the rebels. One of the most notorious cases occurred in August 2013 in the Ghouta region northeast of the capital. Various reports record between 280 and 1,800 dead. However, Assad’s responsibility has not been definitively proven. At the time, the White House limited itself to declaring “quite confidently” that the offensives were the authorship of the regime.

In 2018, Portal news agency reported that Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) laboratories compared samples collected by a United Nations mission after the attack on Ghouta with substances shipped from Damascus. “Markers” have been discovered linking the toxins used in the offensive to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Several international experts also blame other toxic gas operations on the Assad regime, which systematically denies the allegations, and on its ally Russia. In February 2023, the United Nations reported that an OPCW investigation had provided “strong reasons” to believe that Damascus was responsible for the 2018 use of chemical weapons in Duma City, which killed 43 civilians.

After the 2013 attack, Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans their development, manufacture, possession, supply and use. But in the third quarter of 2020, the NGOs Open Society Justice Initiative and Syrian Archive submitted a report to the UN showing that Assad was still in possession of equipment and raw materials for the manufacture of warfare agents.

According to the independent Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), between December 2012 and November 2012 he carried out 217 military operations using chemical weapons another five are attributed to the hostile jihadist organization “Islamic State” (IS). Overall, the attacks killed at least 1,500 people, including 205 children and 260 women, and injured 12,000.

Damascus is also said to have used barrel bombs en masse, but consistently denies this. Due to their destructive effect with long range and low accuracy, these explosives are considered extremely cruel and are mostly condemned internationally.

A 2021 SNHR report documents the use of nearly 82,000 barrel bombs during the first nine years of the civil war, killing more than 11,000 civilians, including 1,800 children. From the point of view of the perpetrators, these are particularly practical weapons because they are simple and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

Arbitrary arrests, torture and enforced disappearances

International and Arab human rights activists have been accusing the Syrian government of mass disappearances for years. In its 2022 report, the NGO Amnesty International speaks of “tens of thousands” of people whose whereabouts were lost in the course of the war. The SNHR lists 111,000 missing persons, plus a large number of arbitrary arrests.

In a March 2021 document, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into Syria reports: “After a decade of conflict, tens of thousands of civilians remain detained or missing in Syria,” and thousands are victims of torture, sexual violence or murder in prisons.

As of January 2022, SNHR records over 14,600 torture deaths in Syria. The number also includes actions by Assad’s militant opponents such as IS, but most are penned by the regime. The most common methods of torture include rape and other forms of sexual violence, inhuman or degrading treatment and solitary confinement.

Systematic drug trafficking

Bashar alAssad’s regime has also been accused of manufacturing and trafficking in drugs by other Arab countries in the region. It enormously increased the production of the drug Captagon, the active ingredient of which is phenethylline, a powerful stimulant whose possible side effects include brain damage, heart attacks and the development of psychosis.

A 2021 report by the Center for Operational Analysis and Research (COAR) calls Syria the “world’s epicenter of Captagon production.” Although this trade was initially one of the sources of funding for antiAssad jihadist groups, the regime and its main regional allies have gradually become the main beneficiaries of the Syrian drug trade. According to COAR, Captagon’s national exports reached a market value of at least 3.15 billion euros (R$17 billion) in 2020.

“With special machines and dozens of laboratories, the regime has transformed wartorn Syria into one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies,” according to a study by the American Carnegie Foundation. “It has ports connected to the Mediterranean shipping lanes, as well as overland smuggling routes to Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, all protected by the regime’s security apparatus.”