Six years of crisis in Syria, which began after anti-government protests erupted in March 2011, have been marred by horror and bloodshed. Parties to the conflict continue to commit human rights abuses, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.The Issue In Depth
The Issue In Depth
Everything you need to know
The Syrian uprising has rapidly evolved from peaceful protests against the Assad government in 2011 to a violent conflict, killing, injuring and displacing millions of people.
Civilians continue to pay the highest price and to date, victims have seen no justice. Syrian government forces, with the support of Russia, have:
- attacked and bombed civilians, killing and injuring thousands
- maintained lengthy sieges on civilian areas, depriving civilians of food and other basic necessities
- subjected tens of thousands to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions,
- systematically tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees causing countless deaths in custody
Furthermore, non-state armed groups continue to:
- shell and conduct bombings in civilian areas
- kidnap, detain and kill foreign journalists, aid workers, army and pro-government forces and local activists
- restrict access for aid workers and local partners who are trying to help some of the nation’s most-affected
- intentionally prevent civilians from fleeing conflict ridden areas, and in many reported cases, use them as human shields
Forced to flee
More than 5 million refugees who have had to leave Syria are in just five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt:
- Turkey hosts 2.9 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country worldwide
- Lebanon hosts approximately 2.2 million Syrian refugees, which amounts to around one in five people in the country – 70 percent are living below the poverty line
- Jordan hosts approximately 657,675 Syrian refugees, which amounts to about 10 percent of the population – 93 percent of Syrian refugees in urban areas in Jordan are living below the poverty line.
- In Iraq, where 3.1 million people are already internally displaced, 228,894 Syrian refugees are hosted – 37 percent living below the poverty line
- Egypt hosts 117,702 Syrian refugees – 65 percent are living below the poverty line
The UN’s 2016 humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees was just 56 percent funded by the end of November 2016.
A glimmer of hope?
A glimmer of hope for accountability emerged when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing an investigative mechanism in Syria.
The mechanism aims to bring to justice all those suspected of committing human rights violations or crimes under international law. This is an opportunity to send a clear message to all perpetrators in Syria that they will be held accountable. It is time to ensure that the cycle of war crimes, crimes against humanity and impunity ends now.
Justice and accountability are essential to any future sustainable peace in Syria. The path to justice can be long, but we must act now to ensure that the UN takes all the steps necessary towards an effective international mechanism for Syria.
For the United Nations and humanitarian groups engaged in the crisis, urgent lifesaving aid must be delivered for up to one million people who continue to live under siege throughout the country.
There remains a need for sustained international pressure to ensure justice. There also needs to be accountability mechanisms to address war crimes and human rights violations that have occurred since the uprising began in March 2011.
Medical workers and facilities have come under sustained attacks by all involved parties, and have been deliberately targeted. As a consequence, there has been a severe weakening of health-care and the sanitation infrastructure, which have had devastating consequences for civilians and newborns.
Civilians continue to be disappeared, taken hostage, tortured and subjected to sexual violence, often in the context of detention. Unlawful killings, including deaths in detention and summary executions, remain a hallmark of the crisis in Syria with Amnesty International reporting over 17,000 deaths in prisons since the beginning of the conflict.
Without a return to the peace process, the Syrian crisis and the human rights violations that underpin it will continue. Amnesty continues to call for adherence to human rights and international humanitarian law and for accountability and an end to impunity all for human rights violations. See our latest research.
Syrian communities and organizations in Europe and elsewhere play an important role in providing testimonies and identifying suspects, thus increasing the opportunity for states to investigate and prosecute war crimes in their national courts.
Countries that can exercise this form of jurisdiction include: Argentina, France, UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, South Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Sweden, Senegal and Uruguay.Close
What we've achieved so far
In September 2015, the Australian government stepped up to save the lives of 12,000 Syrians. A whopping 26,000 Australians signed our petition to help make it happen.Read More
What we've achieved so far
Today – all 12,00 have arrived safely in Australia. We also ask on the Australian government to treat Syrian refugees equally, and fairly, while avoiding the prioritization of certain ethnic and religious groups over the other.
The presence of Amnesty researches on the ground in Syria is also vital to holding perpetrators accountable for crimes against humanity. We are there to document serious violations and bring those who commit them to justice.
Over the last six years, tens of thousands of civilians have been detained without trial, often forcibly disappeared. Thousands have died in custody. We are there to shine a light on these cases.
Amnesty’s Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan said: “Syria can feel overwhelming because of the enormity of the conflict: the sheer number of displaced, the confusing number of parties to the conflict, the overwhelming rising toll of people who have lost their lives.
“However, when Amnesty International’s researchers tell us another human rights activist in the country has been disappeared, when a doctor calls to tell us another hospital has been targeted in an airstrike, my team does not have the option to be overwhelmed.”Close
What we're asking
With war crimes, crimes against humanity and other abuses being committed in Syria, it is essential that justice, truth and reparation form a key part of any transitional justice process.Read More
What we're asking
Amnesty assesses that all parties to the conflict have committed gross abuses of human rights, including war crimes.
- putting researchers on the ground in Syria to expose the horror of everyday life and give a voice to those directly affected by the conflict and government sieges of towns and villages
- lobbying Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to ensure the Syrian people remain safe during military operations and receive much-needed humanitarian aid
- calling on the Australian Government and other world leaders to ensure people fleeing the horrors of Syria are treated fairly and resettled as soon as possible.