Members of European Parliament request investigation of rights violations perpetrated by Turkish-backed forces in northern Syria

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) last Tuesday called on the EP president to name a delegation to travel to northern Syria and gather information on accusations of rights violations and war crimes committed by Turkish-backed forces.

In an open letter to David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, 68 MEPs demanded that the Turkish government cease its political, economic and military support for all groups involved in systematic human rights violations. The MEPs also called on the Turkish military and their auxiliary forces to “end their illegal occupation in North-Syria and retreat from the region.”

The “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic” by the United Nations documented such violations in both current and formerly Kurdish-held regions.

The report stated that there were clear and evidential violations of human rights in northern Syria and that these violations were committed by Turkish-backed forces such the Suleiman Shah Brigade, the Hamza Brigade and the Sultan Murad Brigade.

According to the report these groups hold power in the Afrin – Al-Bab and Tal Abyad -Serekaniye regions. There have been claims of rape, sexual violence, abductions and extrajudicial killings in the areas from victims who were mostly Kurdish.

The MEPs said some victims were able to flee these atrocities and that most of them were located in the regions of the “Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria” (AANES).

The MEPs called on Sassoli to start “dialogue with the political body of the AANES, and to engage in talks with people who fled the contested areas under Turkish occupation.”

According to the MEPs a delegation would help carry out further investigations on what kind of war crimes and rights violations have been committed. They added that the perpetrators of these crimes could be prosecuted within the framework of the International Criminal Court.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the human rights situation in parts of northern Syria under the control of Turkish forces and Turkish-affiliated armed groups is “grim, with violence and criminality rife,” in a statement in September.

Bachelet said the victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups’ actions. They also include those considered to be wealthy enough to pay ransoms. The statement noted the increased infighting among the various Turkish-affiliated armed groups over power-sharing, with little or no regard for the safety of the local population, as well.

According to data from the UN Human Rights Office, at least 116 civilians died as a result of improvised explosive devices (IEDS) used by unidentified perpetrators and explosive remnants of war (ERW) from January 1 to September 14, 2020. Of the deceased, 22 were children and 15 were women. Some 450 civilians were injured.

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