Turkey and Syrian proxies must avoid ‘repeating past abuses’ during incursion: HRW

Turkey and Syrian proxies must avoid ‘repeating past abuses’ during incursion: HRW
2 min read
18 August, 2022
Human Rights Watch said that Turkey and its Syrian proxies must take all precautions necessary to minimise civilian harm during a potential incursion into northern Syria.
'Turkish military incursions into northeast Syria have been fraught with human rights abuses,' said HRW [source: Getty]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned on Wednesday that Turkey and its Syrian proxies must avoid "repeating their [past] abuses" during expected military operations in Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces.

The rights watchdog issued a detailed report, called "Civilians at Risk in Northern Syria", on past human rights abuses during Turkey’s Syrian incursions.

These included forced displacement of Kurdish communities, mass detainment in Turkey without a fair trial, reports of systematic rape by Syrian proxies and the use of child soldiers. 

The US-based organisation stressed that Ankara and its partners, such as the Syrian National Army, must do everything possible to minimise civilian harm from a potential fourth offensive in northern Syria expected to target the cities of Tel Rifaat and Manbij. 

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"Turkey and its allies have previously killed and arbitrarily arrested civilians following cross-border military operations in Syria that have resulted in massive displacement," said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. 

"Without taking adequate precautions, Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies risk repeating their abuses. The conflict could only worsen the already devastating humanitarian situation for millions of people in northern Syria," said Coogle. 

NATO member Turkey previously warned that it would carry out a new military operation in Syria against Kurdish forces "at any time". 

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation’s objective was to combat "terrorists" from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara claims are affiliated with its long-term foe the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). 

A secondary aim of creating "safe zones" to allow for the return of Syrian refugees - of whom around 3.6 million currently reside in Turkey - was also mooted. 

In recent weeks, Turkey has carried out air strikes areas along Syria’s borders following flare-ups between Ankara and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

On Tuesday, 17 people were killed in a Turkish drone strike on a border checkpoint run by the Assad regime and earlier this month, a Turkish drone targeted Tel Rifaat and injured at least six civilians, including five children.  

During a 2019 Turkish incursion, HRW documented a host of human rights abuses, including the indiscriminate targeting of civilian residential areas.