At least 1,510 Syrian Citizens, Including 205 Children and 260 Women, Have Been Killed and 12,000 Injured, With Victims Still Waiting for the Syrian Regime to be Held Accountable
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris- The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) issued a report today to mark the Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare, in which SNHR notes that the Syrian regime is the most prolific user of chemical weapons this century, resulting in the deaths of at least 1,510 Syrian citizens, including 205 children and 260 women, and injured 12,000 others who are still waiting for the Syrian regime to be held accountable, despite its carrying out at least 217 chemical weapons attacks against its own people, as the report reveals.
The 10-page report notes that the Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare, marked annually on November 30, which was first announced by the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention during its 20th session in 2015, was created as recognition by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of the suffering of chemical attack survivors and their right to effective support and assistance, and to commemoration, and to express the organization’s member states’ renewal of their determination to achieve the goal of achieving a world truly free of chemical weapons.
The report also notes that prior to 2011, there was a prevailing belief among many human rights defenders that no-one would dare to use chemical weapons after the adoption of the 1992 Convention on the Prohibition and Use of Chemical Weapons, and in light of the legal texts categorically prohibiting their use; despite these, however, the Syrian regime has been the only state globally to violate international law and use chemical weapons against the people over whom it rules.
As the report notes, re-normalizing relations with a regime proven by many local and international bodies to be involved in the use of weapons of mass destruction is an expression of support for the regime’s crimes, including the repeated use of these weapons. It should also be emphasized that this year’s Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare comes as the Syrian regime continues to refuse to admit its deliberate deception of the international community and the OPCW, its specialist institutions’ continued production of chemical munitions, and its continued development of its chemical weapons program even after it acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 2013. Since ratifying the CWC in September 2013, the Syrian regime has carried out 184 more chemical weapons attacks, as the report reveals, with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic confirming dozens of the incidents since 2013 in which chemical weapons were used by the regime, and noting in its report, issued in February 2021, that the COI had documented 38 chemical attacks in Syria, and assigned responsibility to the Syrian regime in 32 of these, with the COI further noting that each of these uses of chemical weapons constitutes a war crime. The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has also assigned responsibility to the Syrian regime for four attacks out of the six which it has identified.
As the report adds, the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons represented a great challenge to the international community, with the Syrian case being a primary motive and inspiration for a large number of countries in the world agreeing to expand the mandate of the OPCW, the first step of its kind since the OPCW’s establishment, so that it would include identifying the perpetrators of attacks using chemical weapons. Expanding the OPCW’s mandate to include identifying the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons was an important legal and human rights achievement, as the report states, with the beneficiaries to a great extent being the victims who were killed or injured by the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against them.
The expansion of the mandate has resulted in the publication of two highly accurate and important reports by the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), which confirmed the Syrian regime’s responsibility for four chemical attacks. Following the IIT’s second report, the OPCW adopted a decision in April 2021, under which it suspended some of Syria’s rights and privileges as an OPCW member state. On April 29, 2021, we issued a special report in which we talked about the decisions of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons regarding Syria, and based on all this, the report stresses, the Syrian regime and its backers must be ostracized and held accountable, rather than being considered as a suitable party with which to normalize relations.
The report documents 222 chemical weapons attacks in Syria since the first documented use of CWs was recorded on the SNHR database of chemical weapons attacks on December 23, 2012, up to November 30, 2021, confirming that 217 of these chemical attacks were carried out by the Syrian regime, while the other five chemical weapons attacks were carried out by ISIS.
As the report reveals, the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attacks resulted in the deaths of 1,510 individuals, distributed between 1,409 civilians, including 205 children and 260 women (adult female), 94 Armed Opposition fighters, and seven prisoners from Syrian regime forces who were being held in an opposition prison. All these attacks also caused the injury of at least 11,212 individuals, including 11,080 individuals injured in chemical weapons attacks carried out by the Syrian regime, with an additional 132 individuals injured in chemical weapons attacks carried out by ISIS.
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 actions 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 actions and breaches they have personally committed but also for actions committed by their subordinates. The report adds that the relationship between 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, all of whom are accused of ordering or carrying out chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
The report notes that 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. The report adds that the reports issued by the OPCW’s IIT, along with the reports by the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), as well as the reports in which the OPCW has confirmed the use of chemical weapons, together with the firm evidence these contain, constitute a solid and reliable basis for holding the Syrian regime to account judicially and, 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 and pariah. All the countries of the world must combat and deter the Syrian regime, given its use of weapons of mass destruction.
The report also calls on the IIT to identify the individuals within the Syrian regime involved in these crimes, as this is a form of accountability and support for the victims of the Syrian regime’s chemical attacks.