18th Oct 2015
A Statement by the General Command of the People's Protection Units
To the Press and the General Public
Amnesty International Report, published on 12 October 2015 and titled, "We Had Nowhere Else to Go – Forced Displacement and Demolitions in Northern Syria" is contradictory and puts the credibility of the organisation at stake.
1. The Basic Argument to Respond
1.1. The content of the report contradicts its title, and this is enough to prove its invalidity and to call for the prosecution of its authors.
1.2. The accusations in the report contradict Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
2. Supporting Arguments
2.1. Hurling unsubstantiated accusations without sufficient evidence.
2.2. Relying only on the words of the people, who are unsure of witnessing the events, without verifying their accounts.
2.3. Some of the eyewitnesses in the report are members of terrorist organisations, and have been involved in criminal activities and are part of this conflict.
2.4. YPG's statements deny the content of the Amnesty report.
2.5. During the preparation of their report, the authors of the Amnesty report were hosted by political parties hostile to the YPG and the Self-Administration in Rojava.
On 12th October 2015, Amnesty International published a report, titled "We Had Nowhere Else to Go – Forced Displacement and Demolitions in Northern Syria" in reference to the Self-Administration in what is known in Kurdish as Rojava. According to the report, Amnesty International researchers worked in Rojava after obtaining the necessary permission from the relevant authorities in the administration, and they were free to conduct their filed work without being hassled by the authorities. The Amnesty report is based on testimonies obtained from local villagers, who were allegedly subjected to "forced displacement" and their houses were "demolished", and on evidence gathered from satellite images. However, the report contains fallacies since the testimonies of the individuals interviewed by Amnesty International were incorrect and contradictory to the facts and evidence, widely available and easily accessible to everyone. In this official statement, we will mention some of these flagrant fallacies that put the credibility of the report and Amnesty International at stake.
Page 5 – Paragraph 1 – Line 3
The use of the term "forced displacement" is arbitrary without considering the cases in which this terms should be used according to Article 7 (d) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which clearly states that "Deportation or forcible transfer of population' means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law." Comparing and contrasting the Amnesty report with YPG's statements, it is clear that the use of the term "forced displacement" is in sharp contrast to Article 7 of the Statute. Accordingly, the report's claim of a "war crime" committed by the YPG is a false accusation.
Page 6 – Paragraph 4 – Line 3
"The deliberate demolition of civilian homes described in this report is unlawful under international humanitarian law, which prohibits the destruction or seizure of the property of an adversary, unless required by imperative military necessity."
For the past few years, numerus reports have clearly indicated that the area has been witnessing armed clashes and the use of heavy weaponry by all belligerent parties, including the Syrian regime which attacked most of the areas mentioned in the report using explosive barrels and Scud missiles, causing destruction in the nearby villages.
Page 8 – Paragraph 4 – Line 6
"IS [the Islamic State] has been responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, in areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration including indiscriminate shelling, targeted attacks on civilians, torture and killing of detainees including civilians – including children – and captured fighters, unlawful restrictions on life-saving assistance, and mass forced displacement."
This paragraph clearly shows that the area witnessed armed clashes and that IS' indiscriminate shelling was responsible for the destruction of villages and the mass forced displacement.
Page 10 – Paragraph 1
"Residents said that the village came under the control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an armed opposition group, in February 2013. A local Arab official from the Tel Hamees countryside said that the YPG first clashed with the FSA and other non-state armed groups in the Tel Hamees countryside in December 2013, and that the biggest confrontation between the FSA and the YPG took place in the village of Husseiniya in February 2014.3 The official said that at that time, a number of armed groups, including Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa' 114, Forsan al-Sunna, and a group affiliated with IS forced the YPG to retreat."
Our YPG units did not enter the village of Husseiniya in 2014, which was under the terrorists' control. Instead, they withdrew from the outskirt of the village after completing their combat mission, which was named "deterrence and dispersal operation." The paragraph also clearly indicates that the area was witnessing armed clashes between different groups – clashes that are enough to destroy any village.
Page 11 –Paragraphs 4 & 5
"In January 2015 IS took complete control of the village. Several local residents said that none of the locals was affiliated with IS, but one resident said that in fact three men from the village were."
"Mariam a mother of seven living in the village, said that four or five homes were destroyed by IS when they took control of the village."
The first paragraph is a clear reference to the involvement of some locals, affiliated with IS, in military operations against the YPG, and therefore they were legitimate targets in accordance with Article 7 (d) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The second paragraph shows the involvement of IS in demolishing houses. There is no doubt that in cases of military engagement, the population would not stand waiting, but will leave voluntarily, fearing for their security and safety.
Page 11 & 12 – Last Paragraph & Paragraph 1
"We left before the YPG entered and returned in the beginning of March 2015. When we came back we saw our homes were demolished... We don't know who did it..."
This statement clearly shows that the so-called 'eyewitness testimonies' were merely based on assumptions without witnessing the actual events.
Page 12 – Paragraph 4
"... We fled at the beginning of the clashes ..."
This statement clearly indicates that the migration process was not forced but was on a voluntary basis.
Page 13 – Last Paragraph
"....he said he believed the demolition may have been in retaliation for the bombing."
This paragraph is another example showing that eyewitness testimonies were based on assumptions rather than seeing the actual events.
Page 14 – Paragraph 1
"Amnesty International collected information regarding the forced displacement of residents of eight other villages in areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration. Amnesty International researchers visited four of these towns and villages from which residents were displaced, speaking with a number of local residents."
This statement is contradictory – speaking with residents who were forcibly displaced and still live in their villages. Similarly the statement shows that Amnesty International researchers relied on people's assumption rather than real eyewitness testimonies.
Page 14 – Paragraph 3 – Lines 4, 5, 8 & 9
"....how they were forcibly displaced from their homes by fighters who they believed to be members of the YPG."
"Villagers told Amnesty International that they believed they were being punished collectively because some villagers were members of IS or supported IS."
These paragraphs also show that the so-called 'eyewitnesses' did not in fact see the actual events. Furthermore, the report refers to a village called al-Maghat, which does not exist and it is one of the southern suburbs of Suluk, which in turn was a military zone under the control of IS. Suluk was therefore the first line of defence for Tel Abbyad and IS military base. The majority of the houses in Suluk are still filled with bombs, left behind by IS before being defeated and expelled from the town.
Page 19 – Paragraph 1 – Lines 6, 7, 8 &9
"... After a week three men came around 12pm. They had shaved beards and spoke Arabic. They did not look like they were from the YPG. They were wearing green uniforms. They told us that we had until 3pm the same day to leave but we told them what we told the ones before them."
This paragraph also demonstrates the lack of credibility of the so-called 'eyewitnesses' their testimonies were used in this report – 'eyewitnesses' who are not sure of the identity of the fighters who threatened them and asked them to leave.
Page 19 – Last Paragraph
"Another resident, a man displaced from a nearby village, told Amnesty International that the YPG shot in the direction of two children when they approached an area bordering both the village and Suluk. Amnesty International spoke to the children, who confirmed the story."
There is an apparent contradiction in this text: speaking to children after being shot. Similarly, Amnesty International researchers visited villages whose residents were allegedly forcibly displaced and were still residents in their villages.
Page 21 – Paragraph 3 – Lines 2, 3, & 4
"Journalists have reported that the YPG displaced the Turkmen on 6 July 2015 and have identified some of the displaced persons by name."
In this section, Amnesty International relied on a photographic report, published on Siraj Press website, which belongs to the Syrian Revolution General Commission associated with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces. The report includes the names of some families who were allegedly displaced by the YPG. However, the person who documented this report is named, Anwar Al Katav, who was the commander of an Islamic battalion and was involved in deporting Kurds and looting their properties in Tel Abbyad and its surrounding villages. He is currently an employee of ....