HRW accuses Turkey of detaining Syrians including Kurds in northeast Syria

A Turkish soldier walks next to a Turkish military vehicle during a joint U.S.-Turkey patrol, near Tel Abyad, Syria September 8, 2019. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Ankara and its rebel allies of arresting and transferring Syrian nationals including Kurds from northeast Syria to Turkey.

The human rights organization said in a report that Turkish authorities and the Syrian National Army had detained at least 63 Syrian Arabs and Kurds between October and December 2019 in Ras al-Ayn, or Sare Kani, in northeast Syria.

The detainees were later transferred to detention facilities in Turkey and were charged with offenses under the Turkish Penal Code, the watchdog added.

“Turkish authorities, as an occupying power, are required to respect people’s rights under the law of occupation in northeastern Syria, including the prohibition on arbitrary detention and on the transfer of people to their territory,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Instead, they are violating their obligations by arresting these Syrian men and carting them off to Turkey to face the most dubious and vaguest of charges connected to alleged activity in Syria,” Page added.

The HRW said the charges were based mainly on unsubstantiated claims that the detainees had links with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northeastern Syria.

Since 2016, Turkey has seized swathes of northern Syria in four cross-border offensives to drive back ISIS and the YPG, and prevent a fresh influx of migrants from Syria.

Turkey views the YPG as a “terrorist group” linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), waging an insurgency on Turkish soil.

“Not only have these Syrians been illegally transferred to Turkey for abusive prosecutions, but in an extraordinarily cruel move, the courts have imposed the highest sentence possible in Turkey – life without parole,” said the HRW deputy Middle East director.

The HRW called on Turkey to stop transferring Syrian nations from the occupied area and detaining and prosecuting them in Turkey.

“Turkish authorities must ensure that their own officials and those under their command do not arbitrarily detain, mistreat, or abuse anyone,” it said.

“The authorities are obliged to investigate alleged violations and ensure that those responsible are appropriately punished,” it added.

“Commanders who knew or should have known about crimes committed by their subordinates but took no action to prevent or punish them can be held criminally liable as a matter of command responsibility.”

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