Amnesty International said on Friday that it has “damning evidence of war crimes and other violations” committed by Turkish forces and their allies during Turkey’s incursion into Kurdish-held Syrian territory.
The “groups have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians,” the human rights organization said.
Between October 12 and 16, Amnesty spoke with 17 people on the ground in northern Syrian, including “medical and rescue workers, displaced civilians, journalists, local and international humanitarian workers, as well as analyzing and verifying video footage and reviewing medical reports and other documentation.”
The organization called upon Turkey to take responsibility for the actions of its own forces as well as the Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups it supports, saying, “We call on Turkey again to end violations, hold perpetrators accountable, and protect civilians living under their control. Turkey cannot evade responsibility by outsourcing war crimes to armed groups.”
At least 218 civilians have been killed in Syria since the Turkish incursion began, the organization said, with at least 18 of the dead being children. The offensive began after President Donald Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan he would move U.S. armed forces out of the way in northern Syria.
American politicians and analysts on both sides of the aisle warned that Trump had opened the door for atrocities to be inflicted upon the Kurds, who have helped the U.S. in its fight against the Islamic State.
“Killing defenseless people in cold blood is utterly reprehensible and a blatant war crime. Ahrar’s al-Sharqiya’s murder of Hevrin Khalaf and others must be independently investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. Turkey has a responsibility to stop war crimes and violations committed by forces under its control. Unless Turkey reins in its proxy forces and ends impunity for violations, it will encourage further atrocities,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International.