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The Eighth Anniversary of the Largest Chemical Weapons Attack by the Syrian Regime against Syrian Citizens in the Two Ghoutas of Damascus, Still Without Accountability


The Most Notable Syrian Regime Individuals Involved in the Use of Chemical Weapons in Preparation for Exposing Them and Placing them on International Sanctions Lists


Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) issued a report today entitled, ‘The Eighth Anniversary of the Largest Chemical Weapons Attack by the Syrian Regime against Syrian Citizens in the Two Ghoutas of Damascus, Still Without Accountability’, in which SNHR reveals that the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attacks have killed nearly 1,500 Syrian citizens and injured nearly 11,080 others to date, and identifies some of the most notable Syrian regime individuals involved in the use of chemical weapons in preparation for exposing their crimes and placing them on international sanctions lists.
The 22-page report notes that the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack against the people of the Eastern and Western Ghoutas of Damascus on August 21, 2013, remains the largest chemical weapons attack known to the world since the adoption of the Chemical Weapons Convention, with the report adding that this atrocity has shocked humanity and civilization. Eight years later, the victims’ families who survived this unspeakable crime, who lost children, parents, spouses, siblings, and other loved ones, are still waiting for the international community to fulfill its promises and act on its ‘red line’ to punish the Syrian regime, yet shamefully no meaningful or effective form of accountability has been achieved to date. The report adds that this attack, together with the type and number of munitions loaded with gases used and the high death toll of victims, shocked the whole world. The report further notes that Syrian society hoped, after such an unspeakable atrocity, that the international community would take real and decisive action in response to the Syrian regime’s flagrant breach of the ‘red lines’ drawn for it by several major world powers, which would contribute to the realization of the rights of the victims killed or injured, and to achieve the level and type of punishment that the Syrian regime deserves for such a monstrous act and for its many other brutal practices against the Syrian citizens. Almost worse than the attack itself, however, has been the international community’s total abandonment of the victims through its failure to punish the Syrian regime that carried out this atrocity, encouraging the regime to repeatedly carry out chemical attacks on dozens of occasions thereafter, and contributing to most Syrians losing hope and faith in justice and international law.
The report outlines the details of the two Ghoutas attack and stresses that it was carried out by the Syrian regime with the planned and deliberate intention of murdering as many Syrian people as possible by using large amounts of sarin gas. The attack took place in the early hours of the morning after midnight while people were asleep, thus minimizing their chances of survival, with the report noting that the relatively low temperature estimated in the area that night and the lack of any breeze there during the period between 02:00 a.m. and 05:00 a.m. indicates that those launching the missiles knew that the heavy poison gases would settle and remain close to the ground rather than being dispersed or blown away by any wind.
As the report reveals, 1,144 individuals were killed by suffocation that day, including 1,119 civilians, amongst them 99 children and 194 women (adult female) and 25 Armed Opposition fighters, while 5,935 other people were injured, suffering respiratory and suffocation symptoms.
In addition, the report reveals that this death toll constitutes approximately 76% of the total victims killed as a result of the chemical attacks launched by the Syrian regime since December 2012 up until the most recent attack using chemical weapons which SNHR documented in al Kbaina in Latakia suburbs in May 2019.
The report documents a total of 222 chemical attacks on Syria since the first attack using chemical weapons documented by SNHR on December 23, 2012, until August 21, 2021, with approximately 98% of these carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and nearly 2% at the hands of ISIS, with the report also distributing the attacks by year as well as across the governorates.
As the report further reveals, the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons has caused the deaths of 1,510 individuals, comprising 1,409 civilians, including 205 children and 260 women (adult female), 94 Armed Opposition fighters, and seven Syrian regime prisoners of war who were being held in the Armed Opposition prisons.
These chemical attacks also injured 11,080 individuals, including five Syrian regime prisoners of war who were being held in Armed Opposition prisons.
ISIS, meanwhile, carried out five chemical attacks since its establishment on April 9, 2013, up until August 21, 2021, all of which were in Aleppo governorate, and resulted in the injury of 132 individuals.
The report provides details of the distribution of the record of chemical attacks according to Security Council resolutions, with the attacks carried out by the Syrian regime divided into: 33 attacks prior to Security Council Resolution 2118 and 184 attacks after it, while 115 more attacks were carried out after Security Council Resolution 2209, and 59 additional attacks after the formation of the United Nations Mechanism and the Security Council Resolution 2235. As for the five attacks carried out by ISIS, they constitute, according to the report, a breach to Security Council Resolutions 2118, 2209, and 2235.
The report ascribes the primary responsibility for moving and using chemical weapons to the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al Assad, who is at the same time the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Armed Forces. The report stresses that it is impossible even to carry out tasks far smaller than this without his knowledge and approval, noting that International Humanitarian Law takes into account the hierarchical nature of the armed forces and the discipline imposed by leaders and holds commanders criminally responsible on the personal level, not only for the actions and breaches they have personally committed but also for the actions committed by their subordinates. The report adds that the relationship of the head of the regime and its leaders and the strict and centralized chain of command mean that the head of the Syrian regime Bashar al Assad and the higher-ranking leadership officials are all directly involved through their responsibility for the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction in committing violations that amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people. With regard to the use of chemical weapons, the report reveals that the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Armed Forces, his deputy, the Director of the Air Force, the Air Intelligence Department, the commanders of military airbases and the squadron directors and brigades of the Republican Guard, in addition to the directors of scientific research units bear the greatest responsibility for the use of this weapon. The report notes that the SNHR’s database includes data on at least 387 prominent army and security officers, civil and military personnel in research and scientific studies centers which specialize in providing and supplying chemicals used militarily in Syria, who are accused of ordering or carrying out chemical weapons attacks in Syria, with the report identifying a few of the most prominent senior leadership officials amongst those involved.
As the report further notes, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has proven the Syrian regime’s responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in four attacks, and the Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM) established by Security Council Resolution No. 2235 has proven the regime’s responsibility for five other attacks. Based on all the preceding points, the evidence and data possessed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons must be used as the foundation for holding the Syrian regime to account for its use of weapons of mass destruction, more importantly, holding it to account politically by rejecting any move to secure its return to the fold of the international community, and for classifying it as a rogue regime and an international outlaw. The report notes that all the countries of the world must combat and deter the Syrian regime, given its use of weapons of mass destruction, and serious pressure on it must be accelerated to achieve a political transition that leads to a democratic government that respects international law and human rights.
The report calls on the United Nations and the UN Security Council to impose economic, political and military sanctions on the Syrian regime on the anniversary of its use of chemical weapons in the Eastern and Western Ghoutas of Damascus, as a form of moral compensation for the victims’ families, as well as to prosecute the individuals identified in this report, verify the extent of their involvement in the use of chemical weapons, and place them on the lists of sanctions and terrorism.
The report states that since it has been proven that the UN Security Council has failed for ten years to date to end any of the Syrian regime’s crimes against humanity or to refer them to the International Criminal Court, the United Nations General Assembly should intervene based on Resolution No. 377 of 1950 (the Uniting for Peace Resolution), and to work to refer the case to the International Criminal Court and hold all those involved in using chemical weapons against Syrian citizens accountable, as well as other additional recommendations.

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