ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Amnesty International has charged that the Turkish military and militias it backs, in their attack on northern Syria that began on Oct. 9, “have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks.”
The human rights organization gathered multiple witness testimonies which it said showed “damning evidence of indiscriminate attacks in residential areas, including attacks on a home, a bakery and a school, carried out by Turkey and allied Syrian armed groups.”
“The Turkish military offensive into northeast Syria has wreaked havoc on the lives of Syrian civilians who once again have been forced to flee their homes and are living in constant fear of indiscriminate bombardment, abductions and summary killings,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
The forces, said the new report released on Friday, “have displayed an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives, launching unlawful deadly attacks in residential areas that have killed and injured civilians.”
We have evidence that Turkish military & coalition of Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups carried out serious violations & war crimes, including summary killings & unlawful attacks that have killed & injured civilians, during offensive in northeast Syria. https://t.co/wozimXUFPG— Amnesty International (@amnesty) October 18, 2019
Naidoo added that Turkey is responsible for the actions of the Syrian armed groups it supports, arms, and directs.
“So far, Turkey has given these armed groups free rein to commit serious violations in Afrin and elsewhere. We call on Turkey again to end violations, hold perpetrators accountable, and protect civilians living under their control. Turkey cannot evade responsibility by outsourcing war crimes to armed groups.”
The local Kurdish-led administration’s health authority in northeast Syria said on Thursday that at least 218 civilians have been killed in Syria, including 18 children, since the offensive began.
In one of the most gruesome attacks documented, a Kurdish Red Crescent worker described how he pulled bodies from the wreckage after a Turkish airstrike on Saturday morning near a school in the village of Salhiye, where civilians displaced by the fighting had sought shelter.
“Everything happened so fast. In total, there were six injured and four killed, including two children. I couldn’t tell if they were boys or girls because their corpses were black. They looked like charcoal,” he said.
“The other two people killed were older men, they looked older than 50. Honestly, I am still in shock.”
The rescue worker added that the nearest front line was more than one km away and that no fighters or military objectives were in the vicinity at the time of the attack.
Amnesty’s research also revealed grizzly details of a summary killing in cold blood of a prominent Syrian Kurdish female politician, perpetrated by members of Ahrar Al-Sharqiya, part of the so-called Syrian National Army, a coalition of Syrian armed groups equipped and supported by Turkey.
On the same day and in the same location, Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters also captured and then killed at least two Kurdish fighters and abducted two civilians working with a local medical organization while they were transporting medicine.
“Killing defenseless people in cold blood is utterly reprehensible and a blatant war crime. Ahrar’s al-Sharqiya’s murder of Hevrin Khalaf and others must be independently investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice,” Amnesty concluded.
“Turkey has a responsibility to stop war crimes and violations committed by forces under its control. Unless Turkey reins in its proxy forces and ends impunity for violations, it will encourage further atrocities.”
Editing by John J. Catherine