Turkey could be held responsible for summary executions of civilians in north-eastern Syria carried out by fighters, acts which may amount to war crimes, the United Nations said on Tuesday October 15th, Reuters reported.
The UN human rights office said it had documented civilian casualties caused by air strikes, ground-based strikes and sniper fire each day since the Turkish offensive began in north-eastern Syria nearly a week ago.
Turkey launched a military operation into Kurdish-held parts of the northeast saying it aimed to defeat the Kurdish YPG forces which it sees as terrorists for its links to separatists in Turkey.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said over the weekend that at least nine civilians had been "executed" as part of Turkey's operation into north-eastern Syria, which began nearly a week ago.
Among them was 35-year-old Hevrin Khalaf, the Secretary-General of the Future Syria Party, who according to the forces was taken out of her car in an ambush on a road in northern Syria on Saturday and killed by Syrian fighters.
A rebel force denied the killing and said it had not advanced that far. UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said video footage showed executions of three Kurdish captives carried out by Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters, on the highway between Hasaka and Manbij on October 12th.
"Only one of the captives appeared to be wearing military uniform," he told reporters in Geneva, adding that the office had also received reports of Khalaf's execution the same day "on the same highway", and that summary executions may amount to war crimes.
"Turkey could be deemed responsible as a state for violations by their affiliated groups as long as Turkey exercises effective control of these groups or the operations in the course of which those violations occurred," Colville told a news briefing.
"We urge Turkish authorities immediately to launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation and to apprehend those responsible, some of whom should be easily identifiable from the video footage they themselves shared on social media," Colville said.
He cited an airstrike that hit a convoy of vehicles on Sunday, which reportedly killed "at least four civilians, including two journalists," and injured dozens of others.
He said that UN war crimes investigators would follow up on all incidents, saying that the UN had received reports of five facilities being hit, all of them allegedly by airstrikes or ground-based strikes carried out by Turkish forces. It had reports of attacks on civilian infrastructure, including power lines, water supplies and bakeries, he said.