In a comprehensive 21-page report, first published in Arabic on 7 May and now in English, the rights group, known for being anti-government, launches a withering attack on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, claiming they were responsible for almost two thirds of the attacks on Syrian Churches.
Sixty-three churches have been damaged or destroyed so far during four years of civil war in Syria, says the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).
The SNHR blames opposition forces for 14 and Islamic extremist groups for seven (ISIS, six; Al-Nusra Front, one). Two are unattributed; the remaining 40 are blamed on the “ruthless” al-Assad regime.
However, both extremist groups and government and opposition forces are accused of committing war crimes through “deliberate targeting” of churches, and not just “random” attacks. All three are also accused of breaching international law by using churches as military bases.
The government’s reported “targeting” sometimes “deliberate” – of churches also appears to have followed a fairly regular pattern: 40 churches in total, up from 19 in the previous SNHR report at the end of 2012