Human rights and civil organizations criticize the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and make their legal remarks
Honorable Mr. Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria
Gentlemen, the international investigators and commissioners of the International Commission of Inquiry
In the beginning, we have to thank you for your tireless efforts towards following the field situations of the areas of tension in Syria which is witnessing conflicts and armed fighting between the armed powers that follow different political, sectarian, religious, ethnic directions and ideology which result in gross violations against the human rights
Days before, specifically on the 11th of September 2019, you issued your semi-preliminary report on Syria about which we would like to make some legal remarks regarding the items included within it and missteps, shortcomings and big legal mistakes, and we believe that it is our duty, being legal and human rights organizations that assumed the task of helping the relevant international human rights organizations, to help them fulfill their tasks by monitoring and documenting violations against the human rights in the different areas of conflict in Syria especially in the occupied Afrin, unveiling the crimes that target the defenceless citizens, most of which are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the two Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, and documenting these crimes and preparing particular files of them in order to be presented to the Human Rights Council to identify those who are responsible for committing these crimes with the purpose of bringing them, in the future, to the International Courts.
1- In its report, the commission highlighted the different areas of conflict and gave a general and comprehensive description for the gross violations committed there as well as the crimes committed against the citizens by the different Syrian and international conflicting parties, which legally described as war crimes, accordingly, the commission explicitly accused some of the parties and countries (Russia, the U.S. and the regime) of committing such crimes, and turned a blind eye to the crimes of some others (Turkey and what is known as the National Syrian Army) and ignored to bring charges against them for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afrin, by limiting its (the commission) accusations and holding responsibility to members of armed groups without having the courage even to name these groups, trying to portray the crimes committed in Afrin as being a result of individual practices, not being an organized and systematic project as stated in paragraph 64 of the report.
And this is what we consider to be a frank acquittal of the occupying Turkey and the factions named as the National Syrian Army considering the crimes committed in Afrin on one hand, and prejudice of the commission’s duty as well as its inaction towards fulfilling their tasks specified in the Human Rights Council’s resolution according which the Commission No. S-17/1 was formed on the 22nd of August 2011 and its task is (monitoring the violations, identifying those responsible for crimes and preparing judicial files).
The commission’s report is a judicial decision that have to include either indictment or innocence and to avoid ambiguity in order not to be explained and interpreted to more than one meaning, and should not include phrases lead to doubt and suspicious or try to tell stories that have not been verified.
2- The report’s paragraphs are contradicted to each others in many topics especially what stated in the paragraphs (64 and 65) regarding the ability of the occupying Turkey to dominate territory and control the armed factions, as in the first paragraph, the report stated that (the commission has not received any signs about the Turkish authorities’ ability to control the bad practices of the armed groups or their desire to do so), and in the followed paragraph, the report stated that (the commission is still receiving reports claiming that the Turkish authorities control the administrative, judicial and executive bodies, coordinate their affairs and finance them, and the residents pointed out to the fact that the Turkish authorities assign the Syrian judges and lawyers or they are assigned in coordination with the Turkish authorities, and that they (the Turkish authorities) also choose and train the members of the Civil Police).
There is a contradiction between the inability to control on one hand, and the unwillingness to do so on the other.
There is also a contradiction between Turkey’s control over all administrative, military and judicial bodies in the area as it was stated in the second paragraph, and between Turkey’s inability to control the bad practices of the factions as it was stated in the first paragraph.
We think that this contradiction comes as a shy attempt by the commission to acquit Turkey as an occupying power from the responsibility of the crimes that have been committed in Afrin area in accordance to their responsibilities specified in Article 42 of the two Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, and the terms provided in them regarding the actual control on the ground and the ability to control, as the state is considered an occupying power.
Knowing that, during our meetings with the venerable commission, we presented tens of documentary files supported by pictures, video clips, witnesses’ testimonies and statements of leaders and figures of the Turkish occupation, as evidences of the effectual, comprehensive and unlimited control by Turkey over all aspects of life in Afrin area and linking Afrin administratively to Turkey through assigning a Turkish Wali.
Thus, the venerable commission avoided calling things by their proper names and turned a blind eye to the illegal Turkish presence in Afrin area, which is considered -according to the UN Charter- as an occupation, and we can not realize how the commission may explain – being a human rights commission and affiliated to an international organization- the transgression of the army of a United Nation member state, against the border of another neighboring state violating its sovereignty and territorial integrity using various types of weapons, and not naming this shameful violation to the UN Charter, as an aggression and occupation, it even did not hold Turkey any legal responsibilities regarding the criminal acts, although the purpose of forming this commission is, as we mentioned above: to investigate all legal violations, detect the facts, and identify those responsible for them in order to ensure that the perpetrators of these violations including the violations that rise to the level of crimes against humanity, to be held accountable.
3- The commission committed a fatal legal mistake when it called the war crimes committed by the mercenary armed factions at the instigation and under the direct supervision of the Turkish Intelligence which is in control of everything in Afrin, as (abusive behavior), as stated in the paragraph 64, and this is a fatal legal mistake by an international human rights commission and reckless disregard for the values of the moral system of the international organization and the victims’ rights.
4- The report avoided talking about the procedures of demographic change and ethnic cleansing that are in full swing in Afrin area by Turkey and its mercenaries, and accordingly, the percentage of Arabization and Turkification in the area approached 75%.
5- The commission avoided talking and mentioning the suffering of more than 200000 people displaced from Afrin in its report, those who spread in the camps of Al-Shahbaa and the villages of Shirawa where they are suffering from being besieged by the regime and Turkey in a limited geographical area, in which all the international humanitarian and relief organizations ignored them, like those Syrian displaced people in the camps of Al-Hool and Al-Rokban that have been clearly mentioned in the commission’s report, thus, the commission came under applying double standards and was unable to remain neutral while fulfilling its tasks.
6- The report also avoided pointing out to the racist separation wall that is being built by Turkey along the border with the adjacent areas of the regime from Atma at the border with Idlib to Maar Saka village at the border with Azaz with a length of 90 km and a height of 10 meters.
7- The report and in an implied manner, held the responsibility of the security chaos and the mounting violations in Afrin area over the resistance operations by Afrin Liberation Forces at the borders of Shirawa and Azaz villages, which are legitimate according to all international standards and laws and divine teachings and fall within the area of self-defense and the response of aggression, through linking the state of disorder and lawlessness and the mercenary factions’ excessiveness in committing violations against the residents in Afrin, to the resistance operations as stated in the paragraph (56), and this is considered injustice against those who defend their occupied territory and a bias to the armed groups, it is also considered a justification and legitimization for their criminal practices and acts.
8- The commission tried to portray and propagandize the crimes committed against the Kurds in Afrin, as if being committed for political, security and economic motives, as stated in the paragraph (59), in which it tries to give the public opinion false impression that the violations and crimes only target the supporters of the former administration ignoring the reports provided to it which prove that Turkey and their mercenary factions target and kill even the Kurdish cooperators and supporters to the Turkish occupation who are involved within their security and administrative institutions just for belonging to the Kurdish nationalism, or for material reasons in order to collect ransom denying that the major motive for these crimes is racial and ethnic one which aims to eliminate the historic Kurdish presence in the area, change its Kurdish nationalism identity and push the remaining Kurds to leave.
9- The committee tries indirectly to characterize and classify the mercenary armed factions accompanying the Turkish forces into extremist and moderate factions as stated in paragraph (63) of the report, by pointing out to the restrictions imposed on the freedom of women in Afrin and holding the responsibility for this to the factions with extremist ideologies, as it describes, and this description reflects the commission’s ignorance of the nature and reality of the armed factions in Afrin, which all belong to the ideology of the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and its hatcheries represented by Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, ISIS and other nomenclatures and names that are away from being nationalistic, and they pledge allegiance to the chief of the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, Erdogan, which (the organization) considers the women are nothing but “awrah” ((the intimate parts of the human body that must, according to Islam, be covered by clothing)).
Finally, we have to be honest with you and tell you that the report has been contrary to our expectations and disappointed us and it is unjust to the victims of our people on many points, so we address your conscience that this powerless people who has nobody to plead for before the United Nations and its various and branched councils, calls for your help to do justice to it in your incoming reports professionally, transparently and impartially away from political, racial and religious influences.
Yours very sincerely
1- the Kurdish Legal Committee
2- the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
3- the Society for Threatened Peoples – Germany
4- the Human Rights Organization in Syria
5- Violations Documentation Center in the north of Syria
6- Ezdina Foundation for Monitoring Human Rights Violations
7- the Human Rights Committee in Syria
8- the Society for Human Rights in Austria
9- Hevi Kurdish Association
10- Syrian Center for Civil Society and Human Rights Studies