Turkey rejected on Friday the human rights violations claims in northern Syria made in a U.N. report and the criticism that followed.
“We categorically reject the baseless allegations of human rights violations claimed against the Syrian opposition … and concerning our country in relation to them,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a written statement. The ministry labelled the report covering the first half of 2020 by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry as “groundless criticisms”.
On Tuesday, U.N. war crimes investigators who presented the report said Turkey must rein in Syrian rebels it supports in northern Syria who may have carried out kidnappings, torture and looting of civilian property, according to Reuters.
“In Afrin, Ras al-Ain and the surrounding areas, the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army may have committed the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture and rape,” the newswire cited panel chair Paulo Pinheiro as telling a news briefing on Tuesday.
The self-proclaimed Syrian National Army is a rebel force Turkey has trained and allowed to cross the border into Syria to seize territory in a conflict against Damascus forces.
“Turkey should act to prevent these abuses and ensure the protection of civilians in the areas under its control,” Pinheiro said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the call by the U.N. for Turkey to ensure that violations committed by armed groups under their control cease.
It is “utterly acceptable” that the U.N. fails to mention the Syrian government, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish-majority People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, “which are (all) the true culprits for the violations” reported by the Commission of Inquiry, the ministry said.
Turkey views the YPG militia as an offshoot of the PKK – thus a threat to national security – and has conducted three campaigns into Syria to push the group south from the Turkish-Syrian border region.