After Diminishing the American Red Line, the Syrian Regime Diminishes France’s Initiative
SNHR said in its report, which was released today, that the Syrian regime has diminished the French initiative, after diminishing the American red line, by carrying out an attack using chemical weapons in Saraqeb city, eastern suburbs of Idlib governorate.
The report says that Russia has failed to deter the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons. After promising that the Syrian regime will surrender its chemical weapon stockpile, following the Two Ghoutas attack in August 2013, the Syrian regime has carried out no less than 178 attacks using chemical weapons, as of February 2018. The report adds that the Syrian regime carried out no less than eight attacks with chemical weapons from the commencement of the de-escalation agreement and February 2018 – another indication of Russia’s failure.
According to the report, Russia has used veto five times in favor of the Syrian regime with regard to the file of chemical weapons, three of which were within one month, in order to stop the renewal of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM)’s mandate, after it ended in November 2017. Since that date, the Syrian regime has carried out three attacks using chemical weapons according to the report.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“Again, the Syrian regime has undermined the red line that was established by the French President, as it had disregarded the former American President’s pledges, with no serious response that deterred the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons again in the 21st century. Saraqeb attack is the first major breach after France’s initiative was announced on January 23, 2018, and pledged to prosecute those who were responsible for chemical attacks in Syria. So far, no serious actions, it seems, will be taken against the Syrian regime. We were hoping that this initiative will see a decisive, speedy implementation, and that it fares better than President Barrack Obama’s red line.”
The report outlines the repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime between the first use and February 2018, as the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons in 211 attacks, including 33 attacks before Security Council resolution 2118, and 178 attacks after the resolution was adopted. Of the 178 attacks, 109 attacks occurred after resolution 2209, and also 53 attacks after resolution 2235. In addition, three attacks were carried out after the Russian veto on the renewal of JIM’s mandate.
The report notes that all of these attacks resulted in the killing of 1,421 individuals, divided into: 1,357 civilians, including 187 children and 244 women (adult female), 57 armed opposition fighters, and seven captives from Syrian regime forces who were being held at an opposition prison. In addition, no less than 6,684 individuals were injured.
The report draws upon, primarily, interviews with survivors who were injured in the chemical attack on Saraqeb city, as well as doctors who treated them, paramedics, eyewitnesses, and civil defense members. The report contains eight accounts that were collected by speaking directly to eyewitnesses, and not cited from any open sources. In addition, the report contains an analysis of the pictures and videos, and a statement on the weather conditions in Saraqeb city on the day of the attack.
According to the report, Saraqeb city was preceded by a vicious offensive by the Syrian-Russian alliance, and then retaliatory acts by the same alliance after a Russian Su-25 warplane was shot down by a shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft rocket in al Sawamea village, eastern suburbs of Idlib. The report also notes that the attack was deliberately intended by Syrian-Russian alliance forces, considering the tactics used, such as timing, targeting hospitals prior to the attack, and targeting the roads leading to Saraqeb after the attack.
The attack took place, according on the report, on Sunday, February 8, 2018, around 21:20. Syrian regime forces helicopters dropped two barrel bombs loaded with a poison gas that targeted civilian houses in al Sharqi neighborhood, Saraqeb city, eastern suburbs of Idlib governorate. Eight civilians were injured, and suffered from suffocation. After civil defense members arrived in the site, three of them also suffered from suffocation, and were transferred to makeshift hospitals.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has violated the customary international humanitarian law, through the use of chemical weapons in Saraqeb city, as well as the CWC and all relevant Security Council resolutions – particularly 2118, 2209, and 2235. Also, the use of chemical weapons constitutes a war crime according to the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute.
Moreover, the report refers to the CWC, which the Russian government ratified, as the agreement prohibits any form of assistance or encouragement on the contribution to any prohibited activity by any member state. However, a number of evidences suggest that Russian forces were involved in providing a preceding and succeeding assistance to Syrian regime forces.
The report stresses that the four permanent members should apply pressure on the Russian government in order to cease its support for the Syrian regime, who is using chemical weapons, as its involvement in this regard has been proven.
The report calls on the COI and the IIIM to start investigating Saraqeb chemical attack and the incidents that preceded, as well as the ones that followed, and identify the perpetrators.
The report calls on the Russian government to stop using veto in order to protect the Syrian regime, who is involved in crimes against humanity, war crimes, and using chemical weapons, and launch investigations into the assistance by Russian forces in Syria to the Syrian regime in Saraqeb attack. In addition, the report says that the Russian government should stop hindering the referral of the case in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The report calls on the states to demonstrate a better unification against the Syrian regime – the sole use of chemical weapons in this century. The report adds that states should take serious, joint action to impose deterring, strict, real sanctions immediately.
Finally, the report stresses that the Friends of Syria group should provide the areas that have been bombed with chemical weapons with protective masks. The report estimates that approximately 20,000 protective masks are needed in these areas, in addition to the necessary equipment to get rid of the impact of the chemical pollution.