There was no improvement in the dire human rights situation in Syria. The continuing conflict gravely hindered efforts to protect human rights and there were numerous allegations of the most egregious human rights violations and abuses. The Syrian regime was by far the primary perpetrator of human rights violations, but Daesh and some armed groups also committed many human rights abuses.

There were also allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law. Many civilian areas, including some in areas supposedly subject to de-escalation agreements, were subjected to disproportionate and indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery bombardment, mainly by pro-regime forces, resulting in heavy casualties. The UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) found that pro-regime forces' intentional targeting of medical facilities amounted to war crimes. One in three schools have now been destroyed. Almost 30%[50] of girls are out of school. The lack of protection of civilians was a major factor in new displacement; between 113,000 and 442,000 people were newly displaced per month in 2017. According to a UN needs analysis, 97% of communities reported one or more protection issues, ranging from lack of civil documentation (reported in 83% of communities) and keeping children out of school in order to work (82%) through to sexual violence (27%) and kidnapping/abduction (24%).

NGOs and the UN also expressed concern about heavy civilian casualties during the campaign by the Global Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces to liberate Raqqa from Daesh control. The Coalition takes seriously all reports of civilian casualties and investigates all claims. We have not seen any evidence that the RAF caused civilian casualties in Syria in 2017 but the UK and Coalition continue to take seriously and investigate all reports of civilian casualties.

The regime used sieges, and blocked humanitarian aid and medical evacuations to force opposition fighters to surrender. By the end of 2017, nearly 3 million people were living in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. This included almost 400,000 besieged by the regime in Eastern Ghouta, where the UN reported that almost 12% of children under five were suffering from acute malnutrition. The regime denied, or only approved with conditions, 73% of UN inter-agency aid convoy requests in 2017. The UK lobbied in support of UN Security Council resolution 2393 to ensure the continuance of cross-border humanitarian aid deliveries to almost 3 million people. The UK continued to disburse the £2.46 billion which we have pledged in humanitarian aid in response to the Syria crisis. We are at the forefront of the humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, providing life-saving support to millions of Syrians, supporting refugees to remain in countries in the region, and enabling their host communities to accommodate them. Since 2012, across Syria and the region, UK support has delivered over 27 million food rations, 12 million medical consultations, 10 million relief packages, and 10 million vaccines. We also co-hosted the Brussels conference in April to support Syria and the region.

The COI reported that local truces, which ended some sieges, led to the regime forcibly displacing thousands of civilians, and either detaining or conscripting others.

There were several reports of chemical weapons attacks by the regime and by Daesh. The Joint Investigative Mechanism of the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concluded that an attack in Khan Sheikhoun in April, which killed around 80 people and injured hundreds, was carried out by the Syrian regime using sarin – the fourth chemical weapons attack it has ascribed to the regime. The EU added more regime-linked names to its sanctions listings in 2017 for their role in the use of chemical weapons. In February and April, the UK co-drafted and co-sponsored draft UN Security Council resolutions condemning the use of chemical weapons, but Russia (twice) and China (once) vetoed their adoption.

There were continued reports of widespread and systematic use of arbitrary detention, torture and execution of detainees, predominantly by the regime, which is estimated to have detained tens of thousands, but also by Daesh and some armed groups. NGOs reported that Kurdish forces have also arbitrarily detained and tortured people.

A number of organisations reported that sexual violence, especially against women and girls, but also against men and boys, was widespread, particularly by pro-regime forces during house searches, at checkpoints, and in detention facilities. Daesh and some armed groups also reportedly used sexual violence. The UK has allocated £29 million since 2013/14 to the UNFPA in Syria, including for projects to help reduce and mitigate gender-based violence. We have also provided over £9 million in direct support to gender-related projects in Syria. These projects will document and raise awareness of sexual violence, and provide support to its victims.

Much of the territory held by Daesh in Syria was retaken during this period. However, where it retained control, Daesh continued to detain people arbitrarily, carry out summary executions, impose severe corporal punishments against those perceived to transgress its rules, conscript civilians forcibly, and use civilians as human shields. Daesh also held captive enslaved Yazidis.

A UN protection needs analysis reports that 83% of assessed communities cited lack/loss of civil documentation as an issue. Respondents mentioned consequences of restrictions of movement, inability to register life events, housing/land/property-related transactions and access to humanitarian assistance as main consequences of not having official/government-issued civil documentation.

The UK continued to support accountability for human rights abuses and violations. We led action in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on Syria, including the thrice-yearly resolutions on the human rights situation in Syria, and co-sponsored the UN General Assembly Third Committee resolution. The UK contributed £200,000 towards the start-up costs of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria since March 2011. This is in addition to our continuing funding for the collection of evidence.

In 2016/2017, the UK supported over 350,000 children (50% girls) to access formal education inside Syria and over 80,000 (50% girls) to access non-formal education. In addition, in 2017 we published the Education and Gender report which analysed the barriers which women, girls, men and boys face in accessing school and jobs in education. This has informed how we approach inclusion through our education programme, including under the joint CSSF/DFID/EU funded Syria Education Programme (2018-2021).

In 2018, the UK will continue to highlight the appalling human rights situation and to press for accountability through the UN Security Council and HRC, and to support organisations working on accountability and assisting victims. We will also continue to support UN mediation to negotiate a long-term political settlement to end the conflict.



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