At least 7 non-combatants killed in Turkey’s strikes in northern Iraq - HRW

The Turkish military’s four operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq dating back over a year should be investigated for possible violations of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

The attacks killed at least seven non-combatants and wounded another, according to witnesses and relatives reached by HRW.

HRW noted that the organisation was “unable to visit the sites, but obtained photographs and death certificates to corroborate the allegations.”

"Turkey should investigate possible unlawful strikes that killed civilians, punish those responsible for wrongdoing, and compensate victims’ families," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW. 

Turkey has been conducting military operations in northern Iraq for over a decade to counter the PKK, which has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east since 1984 and has its base in the Qandil Mountains, which straddle the Iran-Iraq border. 

Following its military operations against PKK-affiliated Kurdish armed groups in Syria, Turkey in March extended its military presence in northern Iraq. Turkish armed forces have made their way at least 15 kilometres inside Iraq-Kurdish territory and have begun construction of permanent outposts, including those in rural areas of Dohuk and Erbil under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), HRW said. 

HRW also said it had tried to get in touch with Turkish, Iraqi, and the KRG authorities to ask about the measures taken to minimise and investigate civilian casualties, and to enable victims and their families to seek reparations. 

Dr. Dindar Zebari, the KRG coordinator for international advocacy, told HRW that the regional government did not coordinate with the Turkish Armed Forces about upcoming military operations in northern Iraq. The KRG Ministry of Peshmerga consistently reports on the consequences of the attacks to the Iraqi federal government and has called on the federal government to push for an end to the attacks, he said.