US State Department | Turkey may be criminally responsible for Syria human rights abuses
Defence Redefined
Published on 31/03/2021 at 11:50

On Tuesday, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor published their 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Syria and elaborated on human rights abuses carried out by Turkish-backed armed groups in northern Syria.

The report states that these groups backed by Turkey (referred to as TSOs in the report) committed grave violations of human rights, specifically targeting Kurdish and Yezidi civilians, including “arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance of civilians, torture, sexual violence, forced evacuations from homes, looting and seizure of private property, transfer of detained civilians across the border to Turkey, the cutting of water to civilian populations, recruitment of child soldiers and the looting and desecration of religious shrines.”

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In addition, the report also singled out Turkish forces themselves and quoted eyewitnesses and local human rights monitors as saying that “an attack carried out by Turkish forces or TSOs on October 16 struck a rural area killing a young boy and injuring others in Ain Issa.”

The report referred to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria (COI), which documented the illegal transfer of Syrians detained by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) to Turkey.

This collaboration between the Turkish government and the SNA may “entail criminal responsibility for [Turkish] commanders who knew or should have known about the crimes, or failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or repress their commission,” according to the report. 

The COI also quoted within the report as having documented torture and killings within the former Kurdish majority in the Afrin region, which was invaded and occupied by Turkish forces in 2018, as well as in the area occupied by Turkish and Turkish-backed forces under Operation Peace Spring in Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad, which were invaded in the autumn of 2019.

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In these regions, the COI documented “hostage-taking, cruel-treatment, ill-treatment and torture”, as well as the torture and rape of minors detained by Turkish-backed groups.

Several human rights monitors and the COI reported that in Sere Kaniye, Turkish non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had converted properties stolen from Kurdish citizens by Turkish-backed groups into religious centers.

The report specifically stated that the SNA “arrested, detained, tortured, killed, and otherwise abused numerous Kurdish activists and individuals” in Afrin and Sere Kaniye, which was described as “a consistent, discernible pattern of abuses…against Kurdish residents.”

The report also documented human rights violations committed by the Syrian regime and Russian forces supporting them, including airstrikes, massacres, indiscriminate killings, kidnapping of civilians, extreme physical abuse, including sexual violence and unlawful detentions” committed by the regime.

See the full report here

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