Skip to main content

Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing note on Syria

11 October 2019

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville  
Location: Geneva 
Date: 11 October 2019
Subject:  Syria


We have begun receiving reports of civilian casualties – as of last night we had reports of seven civilians, including two women and a boy who had been killed with another boy injured, during the first two days of the Turkish operation. In addition, a civilian man was reported killed in Jarablus on 9 October and a woman and a boy injured yesterday during counter-attacks and ground strikes by Kurdish non-State armed groups.

We have received disturbing reports that airstrikes and ground-based attacks by Turkish army and affiliated armed groups have affected key civilian infrastructure and objects such as water pumping stations, dams, power stations, and oil fields. On 9 October, water reportedly ceased to flow from the main water supply station in the area of Alouk in al-Hassakeh governorate, as a result of a Turkish airstrike. It is likely that thousands of people will be deprived of adequate access to clean water in the area supplied by the station.

We are also hearing that areas in northern Syria, such as Afrin, al-Bab, Jarablus, and Azaz that were already under the control of Turkish forces and/or affiliated armed groups, are continuing to face lawlessness and rampant criminality and violence. We have had specific reports of intimidation, ill-treatment, killing, kidnapping, looting and seizure of civilians’ houses by the Turkish-backed armed groups in these areas, with civilians reportedly seized by members of these groups from their homes or at checkpoints, accused of affiliation with specific Kurdish armed or political groups. The fate and whereabouts of many of those civilians remain unknown.

As the Turkish operation continues inside Syria, we would like to stress the following:

  • Military operations must be conducted in accordance with international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.
  • The parties to the conflict should avoid using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. By their very nature, indirect-fire weapons such as artillery increase the risk to civilians and civilian infrastructure.
  • Civilians and civilian infrastructure are to be protected from attack and from the effects of the hostilities. When displacement occurs, displaced civilians must be provided with assistance and protection until they are able to return to their homes or relocate elsewhere, voluntarily, in safety and dignity.
  • Attacking, or rendering useless, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as water and sanitation facilities, is prohibited.
  • All parties must comply with all applicable obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law in relation to people residing in the territory over which Turkish military forces and affiliated armed groups exercise control. This includes, but is not limited to, respecting and protecting the rights to life, liberty and security of person, access to basic services (healthcare, education etc.), freedom of expression and opinion, and freedom from discrimination based on race, religion, political or other opinion.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

Tag and share - Twitter: @UNHumanRights and Facebook: unitednationshumanrights