Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the Assad regime is unlawfully preventing displaced residents from returning to their homes as part of an endless series of violations against Syrian civilians.
“Russia and Syria are calling on people to return to attract reconstruction funding, but as always with the Syrian government, reality is much different,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“Apparently under the guise of a notorious property rights law, the Syrian government is actually blocking residents from returning.”
The watchdog group said that it spoke to seven Syrians who had attempted to return to their homes in the Damascus suburbs of Darayya and Qaboun, or whose immediate relatives attempted to return in May and July. Residents said that they or their relatives were unable to access their residential or commercial properties.
Under Law 10 of 2018, passed in April, the Assad regime can appropriate private property without due process or adequate compensation in redevelopment zones, a Human Rights Watch analysis found.
The Assad regime recaptured the towns after large-scale offensives that included indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and the use of prohibited weapons. The offensives caused extensive damage and resulted in mass displacement of thousands of residents.
Human Rights Watch also compared impact sites from the airstrikes with the demolitions. HRW found that while many buildings were most likely damaged in airstrikes or ground fighting, but it was clear that many of the buildings demolished were also visibly intact and potentially inhabitable and were not demolished because they were damaged by airstrikes.
“International humanitarian law also prohibits “wanton destruction” of property, and deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportionate attacks against civilians and civilian objects. The scale of the demolitions, and the fact that the government had retaken the area for at least a year, indicates that these demolitions are likely disproportionate, and may be war crimes,” HRW added.
The Syrian Coalition condemned Law 10 aimed at consolidating the mass forced displacement and demographic change. It warned of the dangers and repercussions this law would have on the Syria’s social structure, stressing that it only serves the Iranian plans to extend its influence and consolidate its foothold inside Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)