MEPs call for investigation into Turkey’s actions in northern Syria

Sixty eight members of the European Parliament called on its president to form a delegation to travel to northern Syria and gather information on the situation in both currently and formerly Kurdish-held regions where Turkey-backed forces have been accused of committing rights violations and war crimes, the European Union Turkey Civic Commission said on Tuesday.

In an open letter to David Sassoli, the MEPs demanded that the Turkish government cease its political, economic and military support for all groups involved in systematic human rights violations documented in a recent United Nations report on Syria.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry found systematic looting, sexual violence, property appropriation and widespread arbitrary deprivation of liberty committed by Turkish auxiliaries.

“The, mostly Kurdish, victims who could flee from these atrocities are currently located in the regions of the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria (AANES),” the MEPs noted, calling on Sassoli to kickstart “dialogue with the political body of the AANES, and to engage in talks with people who fled the contested areas under Turkish occupation.”

Following further investigation, prosecutions for perpetrators of rights abuses and war crimes can begin within the framework of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the MEPs said.

On Wednesday, Mezopotamya Agency reported violent clashes between Turkey-backed groups and AANES armed forces in northern Syria’s Ayn Issa near the Turkish border. On Thursday, the Turkish Defence Ministry announced that three “terrorists who attempted to infiltrate the region” had been killed in the territories that Turkey took in Operation Peace Spring last year.

Local sources have reported Turkish shelling in Ayn Issa throughout last week. Journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg said one civilian had been wounded in bombings on Thursday.

Since Oct. 17, Turkey has reported killing 25 members from the AANES’ fighting units in similar operations in northern Syria. In Turkish-controlled Afrin, one minor and his adult brother were killed when a Turkish armoured vehicle ran them over.

In August, Turkey cut off water to Syria’s majority-Kurdish Hassakah province using its control of the Alouk water station in the Turkish-controlled Ras al Ayn.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem accused Turkey of “moving terrorists and mercenaries from Syria to Libya” in September, and Turkey has since been accused of sending Syrian recruits to Azerbaijan to help its ally’s fight with Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

In September, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the human rights situation in Syrian territories controlled by Turkish and Turkey-backed forces was “grim, with violence and criminality rife.”