Turkey’s airstrikes against North and East Syria have continued unabated since 19 November. German news agency ZDF reports that international law experts do not agree with the way Turkey is exercising its right of self-defence.
In its special report on Turkey’s cross-border military operations to northern Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan, ZDF said human rights groups are warning that Turkey is committing a war crime. The report includes the statements of Anita Starosta, the spokesperson of Frankfurt am Main-based aid organisation Medico International, who said that Turkey “also hit and specifically destroyed many civilian facilities and infrastructure.”
There are pictures of gas and oil fields on fire after the bombardment, as well as grain elevators and power stations. She fears a humanitarian catastrophe if there is a ground offensive, hundreds of thousands would then flee.
The Turkish Defence Ministry said that Turkey is exercising its right of self-defence arising from Article 51 of the United Nations Charter in conducting air strikes against northern Syria and northern Iraq. Turkey is basing its right of self-defence as mentioned in the UN Charter on the 13 November bomb attack in Istanbul that killed six people.
Andreas Schüller, Head of the International Crimes Unit at the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), told ZDF:
“Turkey’s current attack is incompatible with international law.”
Schüller explained that in order for a state to be able to invoke the right to self-defence in the UN Charter, it must have been attacked. “However, a terrorist attack like the one on 13 November in Istanbul is below the level of significance required for an attack that would trigger the right to self-defence.” This applies regardless of who is responsible for the attack, ZDF reports.
Turkey started a drone attack campaign against the Autonomous Administration of North East Syria (ANNES) and Kurdish forces in Iraqi Kurdistan on 19 November, resulting in the killing of 15 civilians and the destruction of much civilian infrastructure.
Turkey accused the Kurdish groups of carrying out the Istanbul bombing on 13 November which killed six civilians, a claim that Kurdish forces rejected, announcing that Turkey itself had orchestrated the terrorist act to legitimise the attack on Rojava.