US ‘deeply concerned’ by rights abuses in occupied areas

The U.S. Department of State is “deeply concerned by reports that Turkish supported opposition (TSO) groups engaged in ‘gross violations of human rights and violations of the law of armed conflict’ in northeast Syria,” according to a report from the Department of Defense Lead Inspector General for Operation Inherent Resolve covering the period between July and September 2020.

The report stated that U.S. officials were aware of allegations of abuses including “murder, torture (including the torture of children), extortion, rape, kidnapping, abduction, looting, property appropriation, the forced displacement of residents to facilitate the resettlement of new populations, and the repeated shutting off of water access to more than 500,000 civilians.”

It cited recent findings from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which documented kidnappings, disappearances, and widespread sexual and gender-based violence in Turkish-controlled areas, including Afrin, in its September report.

The Department of State claimed to have raised concerns about abuses with Turkey and with Syrian opposition officials, but noted that “opposition military or police entities made no arrests or prosecutions” during the period under review. The report also noted that U.S. officials have not sanctioned any Turkish-backed armed groups in response to this pattern of impunity.

The DoD IG report for the previous quarter of this year also cited allegations of war crimes in Turkish-controlled regions, including the kidnappings and disappearances of Kurdish and Yezidi women.