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UN: Turkish-backed forces have committed war crimes

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UN: Turkish-backed forces have committed war crimes

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Sep 16, 2020 1:15 am

Turkish-backed forces may
have committed war crimes

The Commission calls on Turkey to do more to rein in its proxy militias and prevent violations in areas it controls.

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria believes fighters in the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army may have committed multiple war crimes in areas of northern Syria where they seized control from Kurdish fighters, it said in a report released Tuesday and covering events in the first half of this year.

“The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that Syrian National Army fighters, in particular members of Division 14, Brigade 142 (the Suleiman Shah Brigade), Division 22 (the Hamza Brigade) and Division 24 (the Sultan Murad Brigade), repeatedly perpetrated the war crime of pillage in both the Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn regions [Sari Kani in Kurdish] and may also be responsible for the war crime of destroying or seizing the property of an adversary,” the report stated.

The UN Commission said it also has reasonable grounds to believe the same groups have committed the war crimes of “hostage taking, cruel treatment and torture, and rape, which may also amount to torture. Syrian National Army members also looted and destroyed cultural property, in violation of international humanitarian law.”

The Syrian National Army (SNA) is a collection of Syrian militias backed by Turkey. Ankara has used them as boots on the ground in its offensives against Kurdish forces, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) that lead the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Kurds accuse the SNA of absorbing former fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS) and adopting ideology and tactics of the terror group.

Turkey believes the YPG and SDF are a Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has framed its incursions across the border as anti-terror operations.

In early 2018, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, a Kurdish enclave in the northwest corner of Syria. After two months, the Kurdish forces ceded the city of Afrin to avoid civilian casualties. Images quickly emerged of militiamen looting home and businesses in a corner of the country that had previously been untouched by the Syrian conflict. The United Nations documented abuses of arbitrary arrest, detention, and pillaging.

In the fall of 2019, Turkey began a new operation, Peace Spring, against Kurdish forces along the border. The campaign ended with ceasefires brokered by Washington and Moscow that saw the SDF pull back from the border and around the towns of Sari Kani and Gire Spi (Tel Abyad in Arabic).

The UN Commission’s new report indicates the militias are using the same tactics in Sari Kani as they did in Afrin.

People with real or alleged ties to the Kurdish-led administration of northeast Syria, known as Rojava, were singled out for detention, the report states. “In detention, civilians – primarily of Kurdish origin – were beaten, tortured, denied food or water, and interrogated about their faith and ethnicity,” it states.

Afrin and Sari Kani are effectively under Turkish control, the Commission noted, and Ankara therefore has the responsibility to ensure public safety and protect women and children. In its investigation, the Commission heard allegations that Turkish forces witnessed abuses, but did not intervene. Turkish forces were reportedly present in detention centres where detainees were ill-treated and were in the room when people were tortured during interrogations. “In failing to intervene in both cases, Turkish forces may have violated the above-mentioned obligations of Turkey,” the UN Commission stated.

It calls on Ankara to "exert more efforts to ensure public order and safety in the areas under its control to prevent such violations by the Syrian National Army, and refrain from using civilian homes for military purposes."

In addition to abuses by the militias, the UN Commission also documented a “barrage of shelling and car bomb explosions, which killed and injured scores of inhabitants and damaged civilian infrastructure.”

In Afrin, 52 civilians were killed in bombings and attacks, which “may amount to a war crime.”

No group has claimed responsibility, but the Commission said they were likely carried out by “armed group factions or fighters.”

Women and girls have also been targeted by SNA fighters. “At least 30 women had reportedly been raped in February alone,” the report stated. Forced marriage is also a concern.
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UN: Turkish-backed forces have committed war crimes



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