SNHR’s Application to Attend the Annual CSP Gets Rejected for A Third Time
The Hague – Every year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) holds its Conference of the State Parties (CSP) in the Hague to oversee the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), promote the convention’s objectives, and review compliance with the treaty. The conference is attended by representatives of all the OPCW’s Member States, each of which has one vote. The CSP allows civil society organizations to submit applications to attend the CSP’s public sessions. Meanwhile, human rights groups usually hold events on the sidelines of the main conference to which state parties are invited as part of the efforts to combat chemical weapons. These events feature groups from nations worldwide, except for Syria, which is patently absurd, given that Syria is the country worst affected by chemical weapons globally due to the Syrian regime’s repeated use of these weapons.
This year, as in previous years, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), as a human rights group engaged in documenting the use of chemical weapons in Syria, applied to attend the annual event, with this year’s 28th Session of the Conference of the States Parties (CSP-28), set to take place in the Hague on November 27-December 1, 2023. However, our application was rejected by some of the states on the CSP-28’s General Committee, which we believe were pro-Syrian regime dictatorships, without any reason being provided. It should be noted that this is the third time SNHR’s application has been rejected by the OPCW, and the second occasion on which it’s been rejected this year, as we applied to attend the Fifth Review Conference (RC-5), which was held at the Hauge on May 15-19 of this year, but, as we mentioned above, our application was turned down on that occasion as well.
SNHR has worked extensively on the issue of documenting chemical weapons usage for over 10 years, releasing dozens of reports and statements throughout that period on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We possess an unparalleled and exhaustive database documenting incidents involving the use of chemical weapons, including details of the deaths and injuries resulting from these attacks, as well as data on hundreds of individuals involved in the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
In January 2020, SNHR signed a Principles of Cooperation Agreement with the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) and has been a reference source in all the reports released by the IIT.
Furthermore, in November 2022, SNHR joined the Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition – an independent civil society group that works to support the aims of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and to supplement the work of the OPCW’s member states. This is achieved through focused civil society action, with the aims of attaining full CWC membership, working for the timely and safe elimination of all chemical weapons, and preventing the misuse of chemicals for hostile purposes while promoting their peaceful use.
In attending the CSP, SNHR’s goal is to be present at an international event to outline the latest developments regarding the issue of chemical weapons in Syria and the most notable figures involved in the use of chemical weapons in the country. To this day, the Syrian regime continues to obstruct the investigation, and is still producing and storing chemical weapons.
The mechanism put in place to accept or reject civil society organizations’ applications should be modified. More reasonable criteria should be adopted, such as the contributions of the applying organization to the issue of chemical weapons. The current criteria seem to be more suited with the interests with the regimes that violate the Convention. As long as the same criteria are adopted, SNHR will never be able to attend, and its applications will be rejected again and again based on arbitrary criteria, since SNHR has been one of the most prominent groups to work on the documentation on the use of chemical weapons since 2012, and have released numerous reports on this issue.
The General Committee’s refusal of SNHR’s applications directly assists the Syrian regime, Russia, China, and Iran, namely the states that voted in support of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, while blocking its prosecution. These are also the same states that questioned the authenticity of the reports released by the OPCW. Leaving the space open for those states help their promotion of misinformation and their presenting their grotesquely distorted narrative misrepresenting the reality in Syria.