Título:  SYRIA: SQUEEZING THE LIFE OUT OF YARMOUK: WAR CRIMES AGAINST BESIEGED CIVILIANS
Índice AI:  MDE2400814
Referencia:  MDE2400814-12123
Editor:  EDAI
Autor:  Amnistía Internacional
Fecha publicación:  20140310
Tema principal:  SIRIA
Descriptores:  Desplazados internos · Conflicto armado · Ataques · Crímenes contra la humanidad · Salud · Alimentación · Homicidios indiscriminados · Entidades no gubernamentales · Refugiados · Ayuda humanitaria · Tortura y malos tratos · Crímenes de guerra
Resumen / Descripción:  Tres años después de que las protestas populares recibieran una respuesta brutal de las autoridades sirias, que llevaron a un conflicto armado interno, un cuarto de millón de civiles viven en estado de sitio en Siria. Este informe se centra en la situación en Yarmuk, en el que el estado de sitio ha tenido el impacto más duro y ha causado el mayor número de muertes por inanición. Cuando comenzó la crisis actual, Yarmuk era el hogar de la mayor comunidad de refugiados palestinos en el país.
Grado de seguridad:  Nivel 1
Subtipo de documentos:  Informe temático
Tipo de documento:  Documentación
Idioma:  Inglés
Enlace:  Norte Africa · Siria
Texto:      

                                         SQUEEZING THE LIFE OUT OF YARMOUK
                                         WAR CRIMES AGAINST BESIEGED CIVILIANS

           Amnesty International is a global movement of more than   3 million supporters,
           members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of h
uman rights.
           Our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal
           Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
           We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or
           religion and are funded mainly by our membership and public donations.

           First published in 2014 by
           Amnesty International Ltd
           Peter Benenson House
           1 Easton Street
           London WC1X 0DW
           United Kingdom

           © Amnesty International 2014

           Index: MDE 24/008/2014 English
           Original language: English
           Printed by Amnesty International,
           International Secretariat, United Kingdom

           All rights reserved. This publication is copyright, but may be reproduced by any method without fee fo
r advocacy,
           campaigning and teaching purposes, but not for resale. The copyright holders request that all such use
 be registered with them for impact assessment purposes. For copying in any other circumstances, or for reuse in 
other publications, or
for
translation or adaptation, prior written permission must
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uiries, please
           contact copyright@amnesty.org

           Cover photo: Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by
           UNRWA at the besieged Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus,
           Syria, on 31 January, 2014.
           © unrwa.org
           amnesty.org

              CONTENTS

              1. Introduction ...................................................................................
.......................... 4

              2. The siege ......................................................................................
........................... 7

                2.1 Summary .....................................................................................
....................... 7

                2.2 Deaths under siege ..........................................................................
.................... 9

                2.3 Starvation ..................................................................................
....................... 10

                2.4 Medical workers, medical service and the health of the besieged ............................ 
12

                2.5 Arrests, detentions and deaths in custody ...................................................
.......... 16

              3. The siege and international law ................................................................
................ 18

                3.1 International human rights law ..............................................................
.............. 18

                3.2 International humanitarian law ..............................................................
.............. 18

                3.3 International criminal law ..................................................................
................. 20

              4. Conclusion and recommendations .................................................................
............ 21

                Recommendations to the government of Syria ......................................................
....... 21

                Recommendations to all armed oppostion groups in Syria ..........................................
.. 22

                Recommendations to the UN Security Council ......................................................
...... 23

                Recommendations to countries neighbouring Syria .................................................
..... 23

                Recommendations to the international community, in particular states with the means to provide as
sistance ................................................................................................... 23

              5. Appendix: Table of deaths under siege ..........................................................
............ 24

              Endnotes ..........................................................................................
......................... 35

                       4 4   Squeezing the life out of Yarmouk  War crimes against besieged civilians
                       1. INTRODUCTION Three years after popular pro-reform then anti-government protests drew a 
brutal response from the Syrian authorities, leading to the internal armed conflict that continues to rage, aroun
d a quarter of a million
civilians are living under siege across Syria. Many have endured appalling conditions in their struggle to surviv
e. Most live in areas besieged by Syrian government forces and have been effectively confined for a year or more 
in areas devastated by
bombing and shelling. The besieged people have little food; some have resorted to killing cats and dogs to eat wh
ile those who forage for leaves and weeds for their families to consume are prey to government snipers. Meanwhile
, in other areas where
the
government retains popular support, civilians have come under siege from armed opposition forces who have severed
 much-needed food, fuel and medical supplies.  The areas under siege by Syrian government forces include suburbs 
and other districts of
the
capital Damascus, as well as areas within or close to other major cities, such as Homs and Aleppo. Yarmouk, locat
ed some 8km from the centre of Damascus, and Eastern Ghouta, on the cityos eastern edge, have both been subjected
 to repeated attacks and
prolonged sieges by troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, as have parts of Homs, Syriaos third largest city,
 and al-Hassaka in the north-east. Fighters opposed to the government have besieged the central prison in the nor
thern city of Aleppo,
Syriaos most populous city, and the nearby villages of Zahraa and Nobl, whose inhabitants they perceive as suppor
ting the government. This report focuses on the situation in Yarmouk, where the siege has been particularly prolo
nged, has had the
harshest
impact, and has caused the largest number of deaths from starvation. A highly built-up area of 2km2, Yarmouk is s
ituated on the south side of Damascus. Its residents include Palestinians and Syrians; the former are refugees, P
alestinians and their
descendants who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 conflict that saw the creation of the Stat
e of Israel or the subsequent war of 1967 when Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.1 When th
e current crisis began in
Syria, Yarmouk was home to the countryos largest Palestinian refugee community. It was a densely populated area t
hat resembled a residential district rather than a refugee camp. Its residents comprised some 180,000 Palestinian
 refugees and several
hundred thousand Syrian nationals. Once the conflict took hold, thousands of people displaced by fighting in othe
r parts of Syria arrived to seek shelter in Yarmouk, while thousands of its existing residents left to seek shelt
er elsewhere, some as
refugees and others who remain internally displaced within Syria.  Government forces besieged Yarmouk in December
 2012. In July 2013 they began to prevent all access to Yarmouk. Since then, with the exception of some intermitt
ent distribution since 18
January 2014, the Syrian army has prevented the entry of all people, and all food and goods, including medical su
pplies, into Yarmouk. The civilians who remain, reportedly numbering some 17,000 to 20,000 people, include many w
ho are elderly and sick
and
families with young children.2  Scores of civilians are reported to have died in Yarmouk as a direct result of th
e siege or have been killed in attacks by Syrian government forces. Amnesty International has obtained Amnesty In
ternational March 2014
       Index: MDE 24/008/2014

                                                      Squeezing the life out of Yarmouk   5 War crimes against be
sieged civilians

              information about 194 individuals, all said to be civilians, who have lost their lives since govern
ment forces tightened the siege in July 2013. Starvation, lack of adequate medical care and shooting by snipers a
re the three main causes
of
death reported to Amnesty International. Many other Yarmouk civilians have been wounded or maimed, or have fallen
 victim to illnesses caused by the severe conditions to which they have been exposed for so long. Yarmoukos civil
ians have been brought to
the brink of starvation, forced to forage for any food that they can find. They have few and diminishing medical 
facilities available to treat their sick and wounded. Every day they face uncertainty about their future and what
 the Syrian government
forces may do to them if and when the siege ends. Elsewhere, other communities in Syria remain under siege by gov
ernment troops and face similar privations and fears.  Within the context of the siege, Syrian security forces ha
ve also arrested scores
of
Yarmouk residents, many of whom they have subjected to enforced disappearance. Some have died in custody in suspi
cious circumstances. Those arrested include at least 12 medical workers; six of whom were subjected to enforced d
isappearance and remain
unaccounted for and another who died in the custody of Syrian security forces. All appear to have been targeted b
y the Syrian security forces on account of their activities as medical workers. Other medical and health workers 
have been killed and
injured in apparently targeted or indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian government forces besieging Yarmouk.  The 
plight of the Palestinian refugees of Syria is a catastrophe within the wider catastrophe of Syria. Almost two th
irds of Syriaos 530,000
Palestinian refugees have once again been displaced. Approximately 270,000 Palestinians are internally displaced 
in Syria. More than 50,000 are reported to have fled to Lebanon, 11,000 to Jordan, 6,000 to Egypt, 1,000 to Libya
, 1,000 to Gaza and
others
to Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia and other countries.3 As early as July 2013, the United Nations Relie
f and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which provides protection and assistance to some 5 million Pal
estinian refugees across
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, described the community as punravelling and in acute distre
ssq.  This report draws on information provided to Amnesty International by six current residents of Yarmouk and 
12 former residents, now
either internally displaced within Syria or living as refugees abroad and who remain in contact sporadically, and
 with great difficulty, with family members and others who remain in Yarmouk. Amnesty Internationalos interviews 
with all of these
individuals have been conducted via the internet, Skype and telephone. Additional information has been obtained f
rom representatives of human rights, humanitarian and medical organizations as well as through monitoring of vide
o clips and other images
published by residents of Yarmouk and others. Amnesty International is withholding the identities of all those wh
o contributed information to this report to protect their security.  International humanitarian law s the laws of
 war s prohibits the use
of
starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare. Syrian government forces and other parties to the c
onflict must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian assistance to civilians i
n need. They must also
allow civilians in besieged areas to leave and ensure the freedom of movement of authorized humanitarian relief p
ersonnel. The parties to the armed conflict must ensure that the wounded and sick are collected and cared for wit
hout adverse distinction.
Sieges that amount to collective punishment of the civilian Index: MDE 24/008/2014                  Amnesty Inter
national March 2014

                       6 6   Squeezing the life out of Yarmouk  War crimes against besieged civilians

                       population are prohibited under international humanitarian law.

                       Amnesty International is calling on the Syrian government and military forces to immediate
ly lift the siege of Yarmouk and other civilian areas, cease shelling and other indiscriminate attacks and direct
 attacks on civilians,
and
allow humanitarian organizations and agencies unfettered access to all areas to assist the civilian population wi
thout discrimination. This should include cross-border access from neighbouring states such as Turkey into areas 
under the control of
armed
opposition forces, as well as access across conflict lines between government and opposition forces. Armed opposi
tion groups, likewise, should allow unfettered access by humanitarian agencies to civilians in areas under their 
control and refrain from
indiscriminate and other unlawful attacks. All sides should respect the role of medical workers and refrain from 
attacks on medical and other humanitarian workers. All sides should also respect the international prohibition on
 torture and other
ill-treatment and ensure that all detainees are treated humanely at all times. Anyone detained or imprisoned on a
ccount of their legitimate exercise of human rights or on account of their identity should be released immediatel
y.  The UN Security
Council
should continue to address the dire humanitarian situation in Syria and make clear to all parties that they will 
be held accountable under international justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other gross human rig
hts abuses by the forces
under their command. Towards this end, the Security Council should refer without delay the situation in Syria to 
the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

                       Amnesty International March 2014             Index: MDE 24/008/2014

                                                      Squeezing the life out of Yarmouk   7 War crimes against be
sieged civilians
              2. THE SIEGE 2.1 OVERVIEW When widespread popular protests spread across Syria in 2011 and were met
 with government repression, the residents of Yarmouk sought to remain on the sidelines, reflecting long-standing
 efforts by the
Palestinian
refugee community to avoid entanglement in RTKOCTKN[5[TKCPRQNKVKECNCHHCKTUCPFFKURWVGUCPFKVUTGEQIPKVKQPVJCVVJG$Co
CVJKUV
              IQXGTPOGPVUQH5[TKCoUEWTTGPVRTGUKFent and his father, Hafez al-Assad, had accorded Palestinian refug
ees greater rights than other host countries in the region. However, the
IQXGTPOGPVoUDTWVCNETCEMFQYPQPOQUVN[RGCEGHWNRTQVGUVUNGFVQVJGITQYVJQHCTOGF
              opposition groups and armed conflict evolved. Yarmouk was inexorably drawn in.  On 6 June 2011, som
e 21 people were reported killed when armed members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine s Genera
l Command (PFLP-GC)4 and
Syrian security forces fired on a procession of angry people in Yarmouk. The PFLP-GC had provoked anger by not pa
rticipating in a demonstration lamenting the killing of people, including individuals from Yarmouk, by the Israel
i military at the border
with Israel the previous day.5 Resentment against both the government and the PFLP-GC increased further when Yarm
ouk came under heavy shelling, apparently by government forces, in August and September 2012, reportedly killing 
at least 20 people. Soon
after this, fighters belonging to armed opposition groups linked to the opposition umbrella group known as the Fr
ee Syrian Army (FSA) established a presence in Yarmouk. They recruited a number of local residents into their ran
ks and engaged in armed
clashes with Syrian government forces and the PFLP-GC.  On 16 December 2012, a Syrian government MiG warplane car
ried out raids on Yarmouk, bombing a number of civilian targets, including four schools s two of which were shelt
ers for internally
displaced people (IDPs), a mosque that was also an IDP shelter and the al-Basel Hospital. Reports by local human 
rights organizations and other sources indicate that the targets were purely civilian, that no members of armed g
roups were killed or
injured and that at least 25 civilians were killed.6 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the air UVTKMGUpC
              matter of ITCXGEQPEGTPq The next day, government forces shelled Yarmouk again and, assisted by the
 PFLP-GC, began the siege that has remained in force ever since. In subsequent days and weeks government forces a
re reported to have also
UWDLGEVGF;CTOQWMoU
              inhabitants to attacks by artillery, mortars and Grad missiles, causing many deaths and injuries, p
articularly among civilians.7

              In the weeks surrounding the beginning of the siege at least 140,000 Palestinian refugees as well a
s tens of thousands of Syrians reportedly fled Yarmouk.8 Others, however, remained:
CEEQTFKPIVQ#OPGUV[+PVGTPCVKQPCNoUUQWTEGUVJG[KPENWFGFOCP[QHVJGRQQTGUVTGUKFGPVUCPF
              those who had least possibilities to seek alternative shelter, including many Palestinian refugees,
 for whom it is more difficult to find shelter in other parts of Syria and who face greater obstacles than Syrian
s in obtaining refuge in
neighbouring countries.9  Initially, Syrian forces allowed the residents to receive a trickle of food supplies, s
uch as small bags of vegetables, though too little to meet their needs. But as resistance continued they progress
ively tightened their
noose
around Yarmouk, allowing in only meagre supplies of Index: MDE 24/008/2014                  Amnesty International
 March 2014

                       8 8   Squeezing the life out of Yarmouk  War crimes against besieged civilians

                       food and water. In or around April 2013, government forces cut the main electricity power 
supply; since then, residents have had to depend on generators, which are costly to run and lack the capacity to 
meet more than a fraction
of their needs. The lack of a power supply has FKTGEVN[CHHGEVGFVJGHWPEVKQPKPIQHVJGCTGCoUJQURKVCNUCPFVTeatment cen
tres, already hard-
                       pressed with an unceasing flow of casualties from government snipers and bombardments, and
 people suffering illnesses resulting from the deprivation. In July 2013 the Syrian army began to prevent the ent
ry of all people and all
food and goods, including medical supplies, into Yarmouk.  The actions of armed opposition groups that establishe
d a presence in Yarmouk s allegedly CICKPUVVJGYKUJGUQHOQUV;CTOQWMTGUKFGPVUYJQJQRGFVQRTGUGTXGVJGKTpPGWVTCNKV[qCOK
F
                       the Syrian unrest and conflict s added to the problems faced by the besieged civilians. In
 particular, fighters from some armed groups are reported to have raided medical stores and
TGOQXGFOGFKEKPGUCPFOGFKECNUWRRNKGUHTQO;CTOQWMoUJQURKVCNUCPFENKPKEUUQRTKQTKVizing VJGPGGFUQHVJGKTQYPECUWCNVKGUQXG
TVJQUGQHVJGCTGCoUEKXKNKCPRQRWNCVKQP6JG(5#
                       fighters, who were the first opposition fighters to set up in Yarmouk, had mostly departed
 by May 2013 in order to join in fighting in other parts of Syria, including in Eastern Ghouta, Qalamoun and Quse
yr. Some members of
Suqour
al-Jolan, an FSA-linked armed group, are said to have remained, however.  As FSA-linked fighters moved out, fight
ers belonging to other armed groups moved in and used Yarmouk as a base from which to attack the Syrian army. The
y included fighters
belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).10 Members of these armed groups en
gaged in fierce fighting with Syrian government forces in July 2013, capturing a number of positions from the Syr
ian army and forcing it
to
relinquish ground, but prompting a further tightening of the siege of Yarmouk by government forces, the PFLP-GC C
PFOGODGTUQHC5JKoCRTQ-government armed group, the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, many of whom are said to be Iraqi, Le
banese and Iranian.
All current and former Yarmouk residents with whom Amnesty International is in contact say that local people did 
not support either the entry or the presence of armed groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. Nevertheless, whil
e some members of armed
opposition groups are reported to have looted premises and in some cases stolen medical supplies, Amnesty Interna
tional has not received any reports of armed groups preventing Yarmouk residents from seeking to leave the siege 
area.  As the ultimately
unsuccessful internationally backed negotiations between representatives of the Syrian government and the opposit
ion were about to convene in Geneva in early 2014, local negotiations involving representatives of both sides in 
the struggle for Yarmouk
and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority resulted in an agreement that brought some relief to ;CTOQWMoUFGURGT
CVGTGUKFGPVU7PFGTVJKUCITGGOGPVUKPEG