Press briefing notesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Press briefing note on Syria – Idlib violations and abuses
20 November 2020
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani Location: Geneva Date: 20 November 2020
We have been receiving disturbing reports of continued detention of civilians, including humanitarian workers, in Idlib, northwestern Syria, in areas under the control of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other armed groups. We have also been receiving deeply troubling reports of executions following the detentions and so-called trials by the de facto authorities.
Just this week, on Wednesday, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham confirmed that it was holding a 28-year-old woman, Noor al-Shallo, a humanitarian and media worker, allegedly on “moral” and “criminal” charges. Her family has not had any contact with her since she was detained by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham members in September at the HTS-linked Sarmada “court” in Idlib while she was following up on issues relating to the custody of her three children. We have seen a number of reports suggesting that she may be at risk of execution. The de facto authorities must refrain from any harmful act, ensure her protection, and immediately release her.
Noor al-Shallo’s case is among many others our office has documented of individuals detained or abducted -and subsequently executed- by HTS and other armed groups in the northwest and other parts of Syria over the past year.
We have verified reports that several individuals were executed, for perceived affiliation with an opposing party, including Kurdish armed groups or the Syrian Government, or on allegations of blasphemy, adultery, theft or murder. International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits sentencing and executions without a previous judgment affording all necessary judicial guarantees. Under international law, executions carried out in violation of this prohibition may amount to a war crime.
Armed groups continue to impose on civilians rules and codes of conduct that fundamentally violate a range of human rights protected by international law, including the rights to life, liberty and security of person, and the rights to freedom of movement, expression, peaceful assembly, and association.
We recall that non-State actors exercising Government-like functions and control over a territory are obliged to respect human rights norms when their conduct affects the human rights of the individuals under their control.