Turkey transfers Syrian nationals to own soil to face trial - U.N. report

Persons detained by Turkey-backed Syrian forces have been transferred to Turkey for detention and trial, a United Nations report published on Tuesday said.

According to the Sept. 15 Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, Syrian nationals were detained by Turkish-backed Syrian National Army in Ras al Ayn have been transferred to Turkey to face charges of terrorism and murder.

The Kurdish Committee for Human Rights told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that as many as 182 persons could have been transferred to Turkey in this manner.

Most of the detainees were rounded up in October last year, when Turkey started its Operation Peace Spring into the Kurdish-held strip of land in Syrian territory along Turkey’s southern border, the WSJ said. Several among them have already been sentenced to life in prison in Turkey.

The U.N. report said these transfers “may amount to the war crime of unlawful deportation of protected persons,” and were indicative of “collaboration and joint operations between Turkey and the Syrian National Army for the purpose of detention and intelligence-gathering.”

Families of detainees and advocacy groups told WSJ that the Syrians transferred to Turkey were civilians and low-ranking members of the majority-Kurdish-led autonomous administration in northeast Syria, controlled mostly by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Turkey considers SDF and its military forces the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to be affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule on Turkish territory for several decades and has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.

Detainees were not part of the armed fighters, their families said.

Six Arab detainees were taken away by the Syrian National Army, and disappeared for seven months before resurfacing in Turkey, their fathers told WSJ.

Further inquiry continues into the extent to which Syrian forces and the Turkish military work under a joint command and control hierarchy, the report said, and that violations by these forces could entail criminal responsibility for Turkish commanders and others who had knowledge of them.

Speaking at a news briefing by a panel of U.N. war crimes investigators, panel chair Paulo Pinheiro was cited by Reuters as saying, “In Afrin, Ras al Ayn 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 report mentioned Turkish-speaking officials being present as such crimes were committed.

The WSJ cited an unnamed senior Turkish official as rejecting the report’s allegations, and saying, “All of Turkey’s actions in and regarding the situation in Syria comply with international law.”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported on the commission’s findings regarding the al-Hawl (Hol) camp near Hasakah, where the U.N. commission found “reasonable grounds to believe” that SDF members could have committed mistreatment against detainees.

Anadolu cited "35,000 children under 12" as being held in al Hawl, deprived of their legal rights under inhumane conditions by the YPG/PKK, while the report itself did not mention such numbers or name such groups.