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Syria Today – Netherlands, Canada File Case Against Regime; Turkish Shelling Kills Russian Soldier

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Netherlands, Canada File Case Against Regime; Turkish Shelling Kills Russian Soldier

Recently, the Netherlands and Canada have filed a case against Syria in the World Court, alleging numerous violations of international law and torture claims. They have accused the Damascus government of engaging in actions that go against established global standards. At the same time, Turkish shelling in northern Syria resulted in the death of a Russian soldier and caused injuries to several others. Meanwhile, a report has been published indicating that the Syrian regime may not genuinely intend to combat the drug trade in the region, raising concerns about their commitment to addressing this issue.

Netherlands, Canada take Syria to World Court over torture claims

The Netherlands and Canada are taking Syria to the World Court over torture claims, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said on Monday.

In their application, Reuters reports, Canada and the Netherlands claim that “Syria has committed countless violations of International law, beginning at least in 2011,” and asked for emergency measures to be taken to protect those at risk of being tortured, the ICJ, also known as the World Court, said in a statement.

They are seeking to hold the government of President Bashar al-Assad accountable for gross human rights violations and torture under the U.N. Convention against Torture, which Damascus ratified in 2004.

“It is the Dutch government’s position that there is ample evidence demonstrating that Syria has committed serious human rights violations against Syrian citizens on a grand scale,” the Dutch Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In their application, Canada and the Netherlands have asked the court to issue emergency orders for Syria to cease all acts of torture and cruel treatment and to end arbitrary detentions, among other things. Usually, the World Court will order emergency hearings to mull such requests within days of receiving a claim.

If it finds it has jurisdiction, the ICJ would be the first international court to be able to make a legal finding on the alleged state use of torture in Syria.

Canada and the Netherlands decided to act in 2020 after Russia blocked multiple efforts in the United Nations Security Council to refer a case on human rights violations in Syria to the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes individuals for war crimes and is also based in The Hague.

Turkish shelling in north Syria said to kill Russian soldier, wound others

Turkish shelling in northern Syria early Monday hit a vehicle, killing one Russian soldier and injuring several others, Syrian Kurdish media and an opposition war monitor reported.

Monday’s shelling came after a day of violence between US-backed Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops in northern Syria left several dead on the Kurdish side.

There was no immediate comment from the Russian military, the Syrian government or Turkish officials on the reported shelling.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor of unclear funding, reported that one Russian soldier was killed and four others were wounded when Turkish troops shelled a road linking the villages of Herbel with Um Hawsh in Aleppo province.

The news agency for the semiautonomous Kurdish areas in Syria, Hawar News, reported that a Russian vehicle was hit, adding that there were casualties, but did not give a breakdown. Another Kurdish news agency, North press agency, said one Russian soldier was killed and three wounded.

Turkey’s defense ministry said Monday that at least 12 suspected members of the main Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, were killed after Turkish forces retaliated to a mortar attack on Turkish targets.

Syrian government pretends to pursue drug dealers in Daraa

North Press published a report that argues that the Syrian government is not serious about combating drug dealers. According to activists in the region, factions affiliated with the Syrian government forces are involved in promoting and trafficking drugs. These factions reportedly transport drugs from Lebanon to the Jordanian border, exploiting their military IDs to bypass inspections at checkpoints. The United States and UK have imposed sanctions on government forces commanders in Daraa for their involvement in drug dealings.

The report suggests that the Syrian regime does not have a genuine intention to combat the drug business in the region. Military expert Ahmad Rahal argues that the recent campaign by government-affiliated factions is merely an attempt to create the illusion that the regime is taking action against drug trafficking. 

Rahal claims that drugs have become an alternative economy for the Syrian government, Iran, and Hezbollah, as they lack other viable sources of revenue. According to the report, the Syrian regime relies on drug revenues due to the absence of central bank alternatives and limited control over the oil industry.

While the regime is allegedly pursuing some small-scale drug dealers to project a positive image to the international community, the activist interviewed in the article asserts that the main drug dealers, including the Assad regime and Hezbollah, remain untouched. 

The activist believes that the pursuit of these small dealers will have little impact on halting drug smuggling. The article also mentions that drug smuggling has decreased recently, not due to political reasons, but rather because of seasonal factors such as fog and cold weather.

The Daraa Governorate is said to be suffering from a widespread issue of narcotic pill consumption, particularly among youth and teenagers. The economic decline and lack of job opportunities in the country have reportedly led the Assad regime to exploit vulnerable populations in the drug trade. While unknown assailants frequently attack drug dealers and traffickers, it is noted that the big dealers remain safe from such assaults.

Plastic waste turned into rugs in rebel-held Syria

In rebel-held areas of Syria, plastic waste is being recycled and transformed into floor rugs and other items, providing a lifeline for residents seeking work or affordable products, Al-Jazeera reports

Mohammed Behlal, a displaced resident who was shot in the leg during the civil war, earns a living by sifting through the refuse in the village of Hezreh in Idleb province. Alongside his children, Behlal sorts plastic at a rubbish dump, earning $7 to $10 a week each. 

The plastic is then purchased from trash-picker trucks and children by workers like Farhan Sleiman, who handles the material brought to a large scrapyard. The plastic is sorted, cut, crushed into small pieces, washed, and melted into plastic pellets.

In another area of Idleb province, the reports add, a factory employs over 30 people who make mats and rugs from recycled plastic. Owner Khaled Rashu explains that rug-making is a family tradition, and the brightly coloured plastic thread is woven into mats using large machines. 

These mats, featuring geometric designs and vibrant colours, are popular among displaced people living in tents or makeshift dwellings. The mats are priced between $5 and $15, while traditional Persian-style rugs cost around $100. Shop owner Mohammed al-Qassem notes that demand for plastic mats increases in the summer due to their heat retention properties, although they can also be used in winter at a lower cost.

Recycling plastic waste into useful products provides employment opportunities and affordable goods in a region heavily affected by conflict and displacement. This initiative not only addresses the environmental issue of plastic waste but also offers economic benefits to the local community.

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