Serious and individual threat to a civilian’s life or person by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict
The necessary elements in order to apply Article 15(c) QD are:
Figure 4. Article 15(c) QD: elements of the assessment.
In order to apply Article 15(c) QD, the above elements should be established cumulatively.
The following is a summary of the relevant conclusions concerning the situation in Syria:
a. Armed conflict
As of 2020, there are multiple overlapping non-international (internal) and international armed conflicts taking place in Syria:
- The government of Syria is involved in a non-international armed conflict with various anti-GoS armed groups, most notably HTS, the SNA and ISIL
- The US-led coalition against ISIL is in an international armed conflict with Syria, due to its military intervention in Syria without the consent of the GoS.
- Syria is also in an international armed conflict with Turkey, who has carried out military operations against ISIL and Kurdish armed groups in Syria, and controls parts of northern Syria with the help of anti-government armed groups. Military confrontations between Syrian and Turkish armed forces took place during the conflict, most recently in March 2020.
- Turkey is also engaged in a non-international conflict in Syria with YPG forces.
- Syria is involved in an international armed conflict with Israel, who has been conducting airstrike on Iranian targets in Syria without the consent of the GoS.
Article 15(c) QD applies to a person who is not a member of any of the parties to the conflict and is not taking part in the hostilities, potentially including former combatants who have genuinely and permanently renounced armed activity.
The applications by persons under the following profiles should be examined carefully. Based on an individual assessment, such applicants may be found not to qualify as civilians under Article 15(c) QD. For example:
- Syrian Armed Forces
- Pro-government militias
- SDF and Asayish
- HTS and other anti-government armed groups
- ISIL and its predecessor groups
It should be noted that actively taking part in hostilities is not limited to openly carrying arms, but could also include substantial logistical and/or administrative support to combatants.
It is important to underline that the assessment of protection needs is forward-looking. Therefore, the main issue at hand is whether the applicant will be a civilian or not upon return. The fact that the person took part in hostilities in the past would not necessarily mean that Article 15(c) QD would not be applicable to him or her.
c. Indiscriminate violence
Indiscriminate violence takes place to a different degree in different parts of the territory of Syria. The map below summarises and illustrates the assessment of indiscriminate violence per governorate in Syria. This assessment is based on a holistic analysis, including quantitative and qualitative information for the reference period (primarily, 1 January 2019 - 29 February 2020). Up-to-date country of origin information should always inform the individual assessment.
Syria: Level of indiscriminate violence
Figure 5. Level of indiscriminate violence in situations of armed conflict in Syria (based on data as of 29 February 2020).
For the purposes of the guidance note, the governorates of Syria are categorised as follows:
Territories where the degree of indiscriminate violence reaches such an exceptionally high level that substantial grounds are shown for believing that a civilian, returned to the relevant territory, would solely on account of his or her presence there, face a real risk of being subjected to the serious threat referred to in Article 15(c) QD.
This includes the governorates of Aleppo, Deir Ez-Zor, Idlib, and the districts of As-Suqaylabiyah and Muhradah in the governorate of Hama.
Territories where ‘mere presence’ in the area would not be sufficient to establish a real risk of serious harm under Article 15(c) QD, however, indiscriminate violence reaches a high level, and, accordingly, a lower level of individual elements is required to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.
This includes the governorates of Dar’a, Hasaka, and Raqqa.
Territories where indiscriminate violence is taking place, however not at a high level and, accordingly, a higher level of individual elements is required in order to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.
This includes the governorates of Homs, Latakia, Quneitra, Rural Damascus, and Sweida, and the districts of Hama, Masyaf and As-Salamiyeh in the governorate of Hama.
Territories where indiscriminate violence is taking place at such a low level that in general there is no real risk for a civilian to be personally affected by reason of indiscriminate violence within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD. However, individual elements always need to be taken into account as they could put the applicant in risk-enhancing situations.
This includes the governorates of Damascus and Tartous.
d. Serious and individual threat
Certain applicants may be considered at enhanced risk of indiscriminate violence, including its direct and indirect consequences due to, inter alia: geographical proximity to areas which are targeted by violence, age, gender, health condition and disabilities, lack of a social network, etc.
Profiles at enhanced risk of indiscriminate violence could include, for example:
- Civilians who lack the knowledge or the capacity to properly assess a situation and therefore expose themselves to risks related to indiscriminate violence (e.g. children - depending on their environment, family background, parents or guardians, and level of maturity; mentally disabled persons; IDPs who may enter areas without knowing the local risks).
- Civilians who are less able to avoid risks of indiscriminate violence such as by way of seeking temporary shelter from fighting or attacks (e.g. persons with disabilities or serious illnesses; elderly; those in an extremely dire economic situation; agricultural workers who plough the land).
- Civilians who may be substantially and materially affected by violence because of their geographical proximity to a possible target (e.g. those living in proximity to known targets, such as local markets, schools, medical facilities, IDP camps in areas controlled by anti-government armed groups).
e. Threat to life or person
The risk of harm as per Article 15(c) QD is formulated as a ‘threat to a civilian’s life or person’ rather than as a (threat of) a specific act of violence. Some of the commonly reported types of harm to civilians’ life or person in Syria include killing, injury, abduction, child recruitment, explosive remnants of war, etc.
The nexus ‘by reason of’ refers to the causal link between the indiscriminate violence and the harm (serious threat to a civilian´s life or person) and includes:
- Harm which is directly caused by the indiscriminate violence or by acts that emanate from the actors in the conflict, and
- Harm which is indirectly caused by the indiscriminate violence in a situation of armed conflict. Indirect effects are only considered to a certain extent and as long as there is a demonstrable link with the indiscriminate violence, for example: widespread criminal violence as a result of lawlessness, destruction of the necessary means to survive, destruction of infrastructure, denial of or limited access of humanitarian aid, limited access to healthcare facilities.