The Syrian Regime Has Carried out 214 Chemical Attacks, including 11 after Khan Sheikhoun Attack, and yet no Accountability
In a report released today on the first anniversary of Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, SNHR said that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons 11 times since the attack on Khan Sheikhoun with no signs of accountability.
The report notes that the American-Russian agreement that was signed after the infamous Two Ghoutas attack in August 2013 stated that the Security Council would conduct regular reviews with regard to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. All of the Security Council Resolutions that have been adopted on chemical weapons in Syria stated that the Security Council shall take measures against the Syrian regime under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations in the event of non-compliance to the American-Russian agreement and Security Council Resolutions. The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), which was established in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2235, have proved that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons three times at least, while the Mechanism was still investigating other incidents when Russia ended its mandate using its veto at the Security Council.
According to the report, three attacks using chemical weapons were carried out by the Syrian regime between November 16-18, 2017, the period of time during which the Security Council saw heavy international efforts to reach a formula that would satisfy all parties, especially the Russians, in the hopes of passing a resolution to extend the mandate of the JIM. These attacks, the report stresses, demonstrate the Syrian regime’s utter and major disregard for all of these efforts. The report adds that one of these attacks were carried out merely hours after Russia used veto for a second time in less than 48 hours.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
“The repeated and widespread use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime constitutes crimes against humanity. The members of the OPCW should uphold their responsibilities before the Syrian people. We haven’t seen any serious response to the Syrian regime shattering the CWC. It is time to take action.”
The repot draws upon interviews with survivors who were injured in chemical attacks, as well as doctors who treated them, paramedics, eyewitnesses, and civil defense members. SNHR team spoke to 32 individuals, as the report contains 19 accounts that SNHR collected by speaking directly to eyewitnesses, and are not cited from open sources. In addition, the report sheds light on three types of poison gases-loaded ammunitions the Syrian regime used in its recent attacks – IRAM rockets, yellow cylinders, and hand grenades.
The report outlines that Syrian regime forces used chemical attacks no less than 214 times, including 33 attacks before Security Council Resolution 2118, while 181 attacks were carried out after the Resolution 2118. Of the 181 attacks, 112 attacks took place after Security Council Resolution 2209, 56 attacks after Resolution 2235, and four attacks after the Russian veto on the extension of the JIM’s mandate. These attacks resulted in the killing of 1,421 individuals, including 187 children and 244 women (adult female).
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has violated the American-Russian agreement the CWC, and all Security Council Resolution on chemical weapons (2118, 2209, and 2235). Therefore, the OPCW, as an affected entity and an organ of the United Nations, should = submit a case to the Secretary-General of the United Nation to call for holding those who were responsible for the use of chemical weapons accountable, seeing that they violated the provisions of the agreement that have been signed by the Syrian regime and the OPCW. This is achieved through referring to the members of the organization, where the case is submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations after meeting a quota of two-thirds of the OPCW’s 41 members. The Secretary-General, then, would refer it to the Attorney General for investigation, as the file would be prepared and submitted to the International Criminal Court. In light of the Security Council’s utter failure, the report adds, the United Nations General Assembly should assume this role in this regard, and an extraordinary session should be held to achieve a similar resolution to Resolution 377 of 1950. This would require, however, the approval of seven states, including permanent members of the Security Council.
Moreover, the report stresses that the four permanent members at the Security Council 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 also calls for taking additional and practical measures after Resolution 2401 has been adopted and clearly violated by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance forces.
The report calls on the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIM) to launch investigations into all chemical attacks and identify those who were responsible for them.
In addition, the report calls on the world’s states to demonstrate a better unity against the Syrian regime – the main and primary user of chemical weapons in this century. Also, the international community should take serious, joint action to impose deterring, strict, real sanctions immediately. The report also urges the world’s states to establish a humanitarian alliance that aims to protect civilians in Syria from chemical weapons and barrel bombs since Russia will keep hindering the Security Council and using veto countless times.
The report calls on the Russian government to respect Security Council Resolution 2401 that calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and apply pressure on the Syrian regime to commit to the Resolution. Also, the report calls on the Russian government to stop using veto in order to protect the Syrian regime who is involved in perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as using chemical weapons, in addition to launching investigations into the support provided by Russian forces in Syria to the Syrian regime in chemical attacks, and stop hindering the referral of the case in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
Lastly, the report urges the Friends of Syria Group to provide the areas that have suffered from chemical attacks with protective masks. The report estimates that no less than 20,000 protective masks are needed in these areas, in addition to the necessary equipment to eliminate the effects of the chemical pollution.