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Amnesty calls for independent probe into killing of Kurdish politician

Amnesty International is demanding an independent investigation into the killing of Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf during Turkey’s military operation in northeast Syria.

The organization also called on Ankara to stop “war crimes and violations” committed by forces under its control.

Khalaf is a Kurdish female politician and Secretary-General of the Future Syria political party who was killed in northeastern Syria on October 12, on the third day of the offensive that was launched in the region by the Turkish government.

In a news release titled “Syria: Damning evidence of war crimes and other violations by Turkish forces and their allies,” Amnesty on Friday said that Khalaf was ambushed on the international highway linking Raqqa to Qamishli.

“She was dragged out of her car, beaten and shot dead in cold blood by fighters from Ahrar al-Sharqiya. They also summarily killed her bodyguard,” the organization said, referring to the Syrian rebel group backed by Turkey.

Amnesty also said that a close friend of Khalaf found out that she had been killed when “a man who identified himself as a Syrian armed opposition fighter” answered her call on the politician’s phone.

The news report cited details of the injuries inflicted on Khalaf, which are multiple gunshot wounds to the head, face, and back, fractures to her legs, face, and skull, detachment of skin from her skull and loss of hair as a result of being dragged by the hair.

The organization added that Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters, also on October 12, captured and then killed at least two Kurdish fighters and abducted two civilian men working with a local medical organization. They were transporting medicine at the time they were captured.

“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,” Kumi Naidoo, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, urged.

Naidoo added that the Turkish government 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,” she warned.

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria on Thursday said that Turkey’s offensive in the region had killed 218 civilians, including 18 children in a week.

A statement from its health authority also indicated that the fighting also left more than 650 people injured.

“Turkish military forces and a coalition of Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes,” Amnesty highlighted in the report.

The organization said its claims were based on witness testimonies gathered between 12-16 October from 17 people including medical and rescue workers, displaced civilians, journalists, local and international humanitarian workers in the region, as well as the analysis and verification of video footage and medical reports.

“The Turkish military offensive into northeast Syria has wreaked havoc on the lives of Syrian civilians who once again have been forced to flee their homes and are living in constant fear of indiscriminate bombardment, abductions and summary killings,” Naidoo further underlined.

“According to the Turkish authorities, 18 civilians have died and 150 have been injured in Turkey up to 15 October, as a result of mortar attacks they attribute to Kurdish forces. …this would violate international humanitarian law. They should stop such unlawful attacks immediately,” Amnesty said.

Naidoo called upon all parties in the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, which, she reminded, requires that all feasible precautions are taken to avoid, or at least, minimize civilian harm.

“All parties to the conflict including Turkey, armed groups allied to Turkey, as well as the Syrian government and Kurdish forces must provide unfettered access to local and international humanitarian organizations,” she noted.

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