The Syrian peace process remained fragile, with civilians disproportionately affected by ongoing hostilities, challenges to humanitarian access and the socioeconomic effects of a decade of conflict, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. United Nations entities and humanitarian partners continued to address the logistical and operational challenges resulting from the reduction to one authorized border crossing following the adoption of Security Council resolution2533 (2020). Against this backdrop, reports of incidents of conflict-related sexual violence have continued. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic reported 30 rapes in February 2020 in northern Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/45/31). Members of the Free Syrian Army, a loose coalition of armed opposition groups, were implicated in a number of these incidents, including sexual violence committed during house raids. Members of the Free Syrian Army have also used sexual violence in detention settings as a strategy to humiliate and extract confessions, such as in the case of the rape of a minor in front of male detainees at a detention facility in Afrin in 2020. The Commission further documented cases of sexual violence in detention by Syrian authorities. For instance, women have reportedly been sexually assaulted at informal detention sites, including Branch 227, while men have reportedly been sexually abused in Saydnaya prison. Sexual violence remains severely underreported owing to stigma, a lack of services and fear of retaliation by perpetrators or of “honour killings” by family members. The United Nations documented 19 cases affecting 12 girls and 7 women; in 5 of the cases, Yazidi girls in former ISIL-controlled areas of northern Syrian Arab Republic were targeted.
Recourse to harmful coping mechanisms in the face of physical and financial insecurity increased, particularly in overcrowded camps for internally displaced persons. In a shift in social practices arising from conditions of protracted conflict, in 2020, there were cases of girls as young as 10 being forced to marry and reports of prepubescent girls in north-west Syrian Arab Republic being forced by their parents to take hormones to induce puberty in anticipation of early marriage. The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the self-organized Yazidi structures continued to support the return of Yazidi women from Hawl camp to Iraq, although the process stalled owing to pandemic-related precautions. Seven survivors returned to Iraq, leaving behind their children born during ISIL captivity, who were placed in orphanages. Mothers who conceived children as a result of rape faced difficulties in obtaining official documentation for their children, placing them at heightened risk of statelessness. Despite challenges related to access and coverage, service providers referred over 1,300 women, girls, men and boys to specialized services, including for clinical management of rape and the provision of post- exposure prophylaxis. Community centres and safe spaces for women and girls reproductive health care and gender-based violence services to support survivors. Impunity persists, with no convictions to date for sexual violence offences committed during the decade-long Syrian conflict. In Germany, the trial of Anwar R., a former official of the Syrian General Intelligence Service, for torture as a crime against humanity, including rape and aggravated sexual assault, began in April 2020.