On April 7 the world once again was shocked by the heart-wrenching images of Syrian men, women and children who appeared to have suffocated in their houses in Douma, a suburb of Damascus that has been under furious attacks for weeks by the Syrian-Russian military alliance.
While investigations are still pending, claims have been made that the Syrian government has again used chemical weapons against its own people. The Syrian and Russian governments have vehemently denied that a chemical attack occurred.
The use of chemical weapons constitutes a war crime. The international prohibition on the use, development, production, stockpiling, and transfer of chemical weapons is absolute and cannot be left to political wrangling.
Since 2013, the UN Commission of Inquiry has recorded over 35 chemical weapons attacks in Syria. After refusing to accept findings on Syrian government responsibility for last year’s attack on civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, Russia used its Security Council veto to block the UN from maintaining a UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons joint investigative mechanism working independently and impartially to uncover the perpetrators for such attacks. On April 10, Russia again vetoed a resolution that would have established a UN mechanism to attribute responsibility for chemical attacks in Syria.
As a result, there is no longer a UN mechanism with the independence, technical expertise, and mandate working to promptly identify who is to blame for these chemical weapons attacks.
We, the undersigned organizations, urge UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to step up in defense of civilians everywhere by activating an independent UN mechanism to attribute responsibility for chemical attacks in Syria.