UN warns of increase in violations, abuses in areas occupied by Turkey

Today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned of the deterioration of the human rights situation in specific areas of northern, eastern and northwestern Syria that are under the control of the Turkish occupation and its mercenaries, which in some cases amount to war crimes under international law.

While violations of human rights and international humanitarian law against civilians continue in all parts of Syria, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has indicated a disturbing pattern of grave violations that prevailed in recent months in the aforementioned areas, including in Afrin, Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî, where the increase of Killings, kidnappings, illegal transfers of persons, confiscations of land and property, and forced evictions have been documented.

The Commissioner said: "Among the victims are people seen as allied with opposition parties or criticizing the actions of the armed groups loyal to Turkey. Among the victims are people who are considered wealthy enough to pay a ransom. The increasing internal clashes among various armed groups loyal to Turkey against the background of power-sharing without paying attention to the safety of the local population continue to cause civilian casualties and destroy civilian infrastructure."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights added that between January 1 and September 14, 2020, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights verified that at least 116 civilians were killed by explosive devices used by unidentified perpetrators, and by explosive remnants of war. Among the dead were 15 women, 20 male children, and 2 girls, and about 463 civilians were injured.

According to the commissioner, the mercenaries of Turkey seized the civilians' homes, lands and other private and commercial properties and looted them without any apparent military necessity, and they also occupied many of properties with their families.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented the abduction and disappearance of civilians, including women and children, and other serious human rights violations. Moreover, the fate of some of those arrested and kidnapped is still unknown.

Michelle Bachelet stressed saying: "I remind all parties to the conflict in Syria that protecting the lives of civilians remains of paramount importance in all circumstances. A blatant disregard for the civilians' safety is inconsistent with human rights law and obligations under international humanitarian law that all parties, including armed groups and those who control them must respect."

The High Commissioner continued: "I call on the Turkish authorities to respect international law and ensure ending the violations committed by the armed groups under Turkey's effective control."

She added: "People who live in these areas and whose rights have been violated are entitled to protection and compensation. In this regard, I urge Turkey to launch an immediate, impartial, transparent and independent investigation into the incidents that we have investigated, and to reveal the fate of those detained and kidnapped by the armed groups loyal to it, holding accountable those responsible for what may, in some cases, amount to crimes under international law, including war crimes."

She emphasized: "This matter remains very important since we have received disturbing reports alleging that some of the detainees and kidnapped persons were transferred to Turkey after they were arrested by pro-Turkish armed groups in Syria."

The High Commissioner also expressed her continuing concern that the parties to the conflict in Syria are using basic services such as water as a weapon of war. The pro-Turkish armed groups that control Alouk pumping station in Ras al-Ain have repeatedly cut off water, affecting the access of water to about one million people in the city of al-Hasakah and its surrounding areas, including the most vulnerable displaced people residing in the various displaced camps internally.

The High Commissioner reminded that international law prohibits the destruction, transfer, or disruption of water establishments which are indispensable for the safety and sustainability of the civilian population.

The High Commissioner said: "We come back to warn again that obstructing access to water and sanitation is endangering the life of large numbers of people, and this danger is becoming more acute and exacerbated in light of the outbreak of a global pandemic."



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