Paris –The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) revealed in its report released today to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action that it has documented that landmines continue to contaminate large areas of Syria, threatening the lives of millions, with the report including maps showing the spread of landmines in many Syrian governorates. SNHR adds that 3,353 civilians, including 889 children, have been documented as having been killed by antipersonnel landmines (APLs) in Syria since March 2011.

The 29-page report defines APLs as a type of munition designed to be installed above or below the ground, which are triggered and detonated when either a person or a vehicle touches or approaches them. In line with this definition, unexploded live cluster munition remnants are considered APLs. Such cluster munition remnants are scattered across Syria, making them a threat to the lives of Syria’s future generations. The report also summarizes the characteristics of the use of APLs in Syria, the resulting casualties, and the locations of many areas where landmine explosions that resulted in civilian deaths were recorded, in addition to locations where cluster munition remnants have been scattered to enable local residents to avoid them.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Executive Director of SNHR, says:

“Pinpointing the locations of minefields in Syria requires massive efforts. It is our hope that the maps we’ve included in this report can be useful, so civilians can avoid traveling through or working in land in these areas, while the controlling forces should fence off those areas and seriously work on removing landmines. Donor states should also pay more attention to this crucial issue.”

As the report explains, while the Syrian regime had used landmines before 2011, the use of landmines increased exponentially and massively after the start of the popular uprising in March 2011, which subsequently turned into an internal armed conflict. Since the end of 2011, the Syrian regime has planted landmines on the borders with Lebanon and Turkey. Many of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces have used APLs, while only two parties, namely the Syrian regime and Russian forces, have used cluster munition remnants. In this context, the report notes that it is not possible, in most cases, to determine which party planted an individual landmine that subsequently exploded and as such to determine the party responsible for the resulting death and/or injury. There are challenges and difficulties that are unique to the process of assigning culpability in the deaths and injuries resulting from APL explosions, which includes the fact that most parties to the conflict use these weapons, and, with the passage of time, various different parties and forces have taken or lost control of areas where landmines are located. None of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria have disclosed maps showing the locations where they planted landmines. Although identifying a specific perpetrator is difficult, however, the report attributes culpability in deaths and injuries resulting from the explosion of all cluster munition remnants to Syrian-Russian alliance forces, while also outlining the most notable difficulties and challenges arising in assigning individual responsibility to one of those two parties.

The report, which draws primarily upon the information contained on SNHR’s databases, incorporates a hybrid methodology grounded in a statistical methodology in analyzing data through statistical analysis. Furthermore, SNHR utilizes a descriptive chronological methodology to provide a summary of the use of APLs in Syria in the context of the conflict, as well as using a descriptive analytical methodology in creating maps showing the areas where landmines are believed to be planted or where minefields are located, as well as maps showing where cluster munitions are scattered. Those areas are consequently still contaminated by APLs that continue to pose a serious threat to civilians’ lives.

As the report further reveals, the low cost and ease of manufacturing landmines have also enabled other parties to the conflict to use these munitions excessively without showing any concern for removing them or even disclosing their locations, which is glaringly evident in the governorates that saw clashes and changes of the controlling forces. On a related note, the report provides details of some of the most prominent types of landmines used, including cluster munition remnants, whose deployment in Syria SNHR was able to document during the course of the conflict.

The report also includes maps showing the approximate locations of areas believed to be contaminated with APLs in many Syrian governorates. Those landmines will continue to pose a grave threat to Syria’s future generations for decades to come, first and foremost to children. The report also stresses that these maps reflect the bare minimum of the landmines and unexploded munitions in Syria in light of the many challenges faced by the SNHR team in the course of creating the maps, all of which affect, in one way or another, the areas that the team members have been able to pinpoint.

The report documents the deaths of no fewer than 3,353 civilians; including 889 children, 335 women, eight medical personnel, seven Civil Defense personnel (White Helmets), and nine media activists, in hundreds of APL explosions in Syria between March 2011 and April 4, 2023. This death toll is divided into:
– 2,971 civilians; including 765 children, 304 women (adult female), eight medical personnel, seven Civil Defense personnel (White Helmets), and nine media activists; who were killed by the explosion of landmines across Syria.

– 382 civilians, including 124 children and 31 women, who were killed by the explosion of cluster munition remnants left by previous cluster munitions attacks carried out by Syrian regime forces and Russian forces between the first documented use of cluster munition in July 2012 and April 4, 2023.

The report additionally includes graphs showing the running count of the death toll and distribution by year and governorate.

Moreover, the report stresses that landmines have caused disfigurement and serious injuries to civilians. Even though it is difficult to accurately determine the number of victims injured as a result of landmine explosions, we estimate that at least 10,400 civilians have been injured, with many having to undergo amputation of limbs as a result amputated, and now being in need of artificial limbs and of rehabilitation and support programs. All these factors underline that the continuing presence of landmines continues to pose a major obstacle to the work and the return of IDPs, as well as the work of relief workers, Civil Defense personnel, and to their equipment, not to mention to the process of reconstruction and development.

The report concludes by noting that the fact that landmines continue to cause deaths and injuries to the present day is an alarming indication of their extensive use by the various parties to the conflict in Syria. This also suggests that numerous landmines planted in many other areas of the country have yet to be discovered. The report adds that landmines are classified as indiscriminate weapons whose use is prohibited by international law, and whose only aim to create mass terror and fear. The report holds the UN Security Council responsible for the continuing state of insecurity in Syria, due to its shameful failure to protect civilians in the country for the past 12 years, or to bring about any process of political transition towards democracy to date.

The report calls on the UN and the international community to Increase the provision of logistical assistance to the local organizations and local police forces engaged in detecting and disarming landmines, and to allocate a significant sum from UN funds for the removal of landmines to landmine-removal in Syria, especially in those areas where authorities show willingness to undertake this mission in a transparent and honest way. The report also calls for starting the process of compensating victims and their families, and focusing on providing psychological treatment for the survivors, in addition to making a number of other recommendations.