GENEVA – The United Nations Human Rights Office has warned Tuesday that Ankara could be held responsible for summary executions carried out by pro-Turkish militias in northern Syria and that the acts may be amount to war crimes.
OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colvile said that two videos widely circulated online showed alleged members of the Ahrar al-Shariqiya Syrian rebel group, which is backed by Turkey, executing people on the Al-Hassakeh – Manbij M4 Highway.
One of the clips appeared to show the rebel fighters executing three Kurdish people, one of who was in military fatigues.
Another purportedly shows the summary execution of well-known politician Hevrin Khalaf, 35, who was the secretary-general of the Future Party.
“Under international human rights and international humanitarian law, summary executions are serious violations – and may amount to a war crime,” he said.
“Turkey could be deemed responsible as a state for violations committed by their affiliated armed groups, as long as Turkey exercises effective control over these groups or the operations in the course of which those violations occurred.
“We urge the Turkish authorities to immediately launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into both incidents, and to apprehend those responsible, some of whom should be easily identifiable from the video footage they themselves shared on social media.”
The UN has verified a number of civilian causalities since Turkey began its offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria on 9 October.
“The Turkish authorities have reported that 18 civilians have been killed in Turkey, including a nine-month-old baby, by cross-border mortar and sniper fire by Kurdish fighters, since this new conflict started last week.”
The UN has reported that 160,000 people have been displaced by the offensive.
Kurdish-led militias in northern Syria on Sunday struck a deal with President Bashar Al Assad to deploy his forces to fend off the Turkish offensive.
Assad has not controlled the region since the early years of the war.
Turkey launched its operation after the United States, which had backed Kurdish militias, withdrew from the region.
Ankara regards the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the dominant Kurdish militia, as a terror group linked to the PKK, a Turkey-based Kurdish insurgent group.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wants to establish a buffer zone along the country’s southern border.
US President Donald Trump said on Monday he would raise tariffs on Turkey for its offensive in the region.