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Accountability Remains Absent on the Sixth Anniversary of the World’s Largest Chemical Weapons Attack Since the Chemical Weapons Convention


The Syrian Regime Encourages Other Regimes in the World to Use Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction


In its report released today to mark the sixth anniversary of the chemical attack on the two Ghoutas, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) states that the Syrian regime, by its repeated use of chemical weapons, is encouraging other regimes in the world to use chemical weapons of mass destruction.
As the report notes, following the attack the Syrian people expected the international community to act and to collectively demand the overthrow of the government and regime that used weapons of mass destruction, because under international law this is a threat to international peace and security. Following the attack, all the world’s countries that had ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention were supposed to be tireless in their opposition to the regime that used this weapon, and that they would work on punishing it politically, economically and militarily up to replacing it with a regime that respects international law and contributes to its defense. In reality, however, the reaction of the international community, led by the United States, was limited to demanding the surrender of the weapon used to commit this particular crime while the perpetrator was allowed to maintain his status and to continue with his crimes, encouraging the criminal not to surrender all the quantities of these weapons in his possession, and indeed to use them many times thereafter, with the support of states that are indifferent to the rule of law and human rights such as Iran and Russia.
As the report further reiterates, the chemical attack in the two Ghoutas was not the first of its kind, but it was the greatest and largest in terms of the level of casualties and the size of the geographical area targeted. The report also outlines the documentation methodology of the SNHR through its extensive analyses of how the attacks occurred, the details of the attack and its work to attain an extensive understanding of the form and pattern of these attacks based on the accounts of survivors, as well as on pictures and videos, in addition to creating detailed vertical and horizontal photos that show the locations where the shells landed in each attack and their impact.
The report stresses that the administration of the United States of America must be reminded of its responsibilities and commitments to the Syrian people. The US-Russian agreement, signed after the attack on the two Ghoutas, provided for the Security Council to conduct periodic reviews of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, with all UN Security Council resolutions on chemical weapons in Syria providing for such reviews in the event that the Syrian regime failed to comply with the terms of the US-Russian agreement and Security Council resolutions and requiring the UN Security Council to impose measures against it under Chapter VII in this event. Despite all this, however, the Syrian regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons has remained unchanged, often escalating rather than diminishing in scale, and often – as the report states – taking place in the context of near-term military advances, with all these attacks constituting crimes against humanity in terms of the size of the affected area and the pattern of use.
The report further notes that the Syrian regime’s chemical attacks constitute a very clear violation of the Russian-American agreement, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. The report also outlines the record of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons distributed according to UN Security Council, noting that the Syrian regime carried out 33 chemical attacks before UNSCR 2118 and 184 attacks since the same resolution as of August 21, 2018, including 115 attacks after UNSCR 2209 and 59 attacks after UNSCR 2235.
As the report explains, the Syrian regime’s chemical attacks have resulted in the deaths by suffocation of at least 1,461 individuals, including 185 children, 252 women (adult female), 57 Armed Opposition fighters, and seven Syrian regime prisoners of war who were being held in an opposition prison. Furthermore, these attacks also injured at least 9,757 individuals.
The report sheds light on some important features of the attack on the two Ghoutas that took place on August 21, 2013, with the Syrian regime using 10 missiles that were launched from special launchers in the early hours of the morning after midnight, which contained large amounts of sarin gas, apparently with the planned and deliberate intention of exterminating as many residents as possible while they slept, thus minimizing their chances of survival and resulting in a higher death toll. The relatively low temperature estimates in the area and lack of any breeze there during the period between 02:00 and 05:00 indicates that those launching the missiles knew that the heavy poison gases would settle and remain close to the ground rather than scattering or being blown away, resulting in the injury or deaths of as many residents as possible in the area. The report notes that the attack resulted in the deaths of at least 1,127 individuals, including 107 children and 201 women (adult female), and the injury of nearly 5,935 others.
As the report states, the Syrian regime carried out 156 chemical attacks from the date of the attack on the two Ghoutas in Damascus Suburbs on August 21, 2013, up until the Eqerbat attack in Hama suburbs on December 12, 2016, a further 13 chemical attacks between the date of the Eqerbat attack and the Khan Sheikhoun attack in Idlib suburbs on April 4, 2017, another 14 chemical attacks between the Khan Sheikhoun attack in Idlib suburbs on April 4, 2017, and the Douma city attack in Damascus Suburbs governorate on April 7, 2018, and one chemical attack since the Douma city attack, which was the al Kbaina attack in the eastern suburbs of Latakia in May 19, 2019.
The report states that while the advanced countries have succeeded in extending the mandate of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on June 28, 2018, and granting this body powers to identify the perpetrators of the chemical attacks, this step has met with further intransigence and misinformation on the part of the Syrian regime and its Russian ally. Less than a month after the chemical attack on al Kbaina village in May 2019, the Syrian regime refused to allow the OPCW investigation team to enter Syria to investigate and identify the perpetrators of attacks in which chemical weapons may have been used. As the report points out, this prohibition proves beyond doubt once again that the Syrian regime was involved in these attacks, and doesn’t want the OPCW to reveal this, noting the Syrian and Russian regimes’ history of misleading the organization and misrepresenting its work, the most recent example of which was the press conference held in the Russian Embassy in the Hague a on July 12, 2019, which sought to discredit and deny the facts of the use of chlorine gas in the attack on Douma city in April 2018.
The report calls on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to identify those responsible for the attack on al Kbaina village and other chemical attacks under its new mandate, and thus help to hold the Security Council and the international community – primarily the allies of the Syrian regime – to greater accountability, adding that it must rule out any consideration of any kind of relationship with a regime that uses weapons of mass destruction against civilians in the modern age before the eyes of the world at large.
The report confirms that by using chemical weapons in al Kbaina village, the Syrian regime has again violated customary international humanitarian law, the Chemical Weapons Convention and all relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution numbers 2118, 2209, and 2235. The use of chemical weapons also constitutes a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to convene an emergency session and to act quickly in issuing a resolution obliging the Syrian regime to allow the OPCW team to enter Syria unhindered and travel freely there, and to threaten the use of sanctions if the Syrian regime fails to comply.
The report stresses the need for the international community to preserve the honor and prestige of international law by taking a decisive stand against the Syrian regime’s use of weapons of mass destruction and refusal to allow the commission of inquiry to enter the country in order to carry out its investigations.
The report stresses the imperative need for the creation of a humanitarian alliance aimed at protecting Syrian civilians from chemical weapons and barrel bombs since, without any such protection, Russia will continue to obstruct the Security Council and to use its veto with impunity, stressing the urgent need for immediate humanitarian intervention to protect the Syrian people from the crimes against humanity practiced by the Syrian regime, similar to the NATO intervention to protect civilians from killings and ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, an intervention approved by the International Court of Justice which did not see this as contrary to international law or UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999, especially since we are once again referring to gross violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the ruling power against the people.
Finally, the report calls on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to request that the Security Council act immediately to issue a resolution obliging the Syrian regime to allow the OPCW team to enter Syria, and to expose the Syrian regime and its Russian ally before all the United Nations organizations and bodies as well as before the world’s media institutions, and to put serious pressure on the Syrian regime not to repeat its blocking the entry of investigators to the country.

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