SNHR has released a report entitled: “Additional Evidences and Investigations Prove that the Syrian Regime was Probably Implicated in Attacking Douma City Using Chemical Weapons” which outlines the details of the two chemical attacks on Douma that took place on April 7, 2018.
The report notes that the Syrian regime has carried out no less than 216 chemical attacks in Syria. Only a few of those generated a major media fallout and international response. The report stresses that the Syrian regime has demonstrated its utter disregard for the international community and the Security Council repeatedly, as the Syrian regime carried out approximately 183 chemical attacks after Security Council Resolution 2118, 114 chemical attacks after Security Council Resolution 2209, and 58 attacks after Security Council Resolution 2235. According to the report, these attacks spanned the entirety of the Syrian lands, in both areas under the control of factions from the armed opposition as well as ISIS-held areas, and resulted in the killing of 1,461 individuals, divided into 1,397 civilians, including 185 children and 252 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 7,469 individuals were injured in these attacks.
The report notes that the two attacks on Douma city took place on April 7, 2018, merely 72 hours after a meeting was held by the Security Council to discuss the matter of the chemical stockpiles and assess the implementation of Resolution 2118. The attack also came on the first anniversary of the American military strike on al Shayrat Airbase, which was the military airbase from which the Syrian regime forces warplanes that carried out Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack of April 2017 took off. This was, the report says, a new statement of defiance by the Syrian regime to the international community and the Security Council.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
“The American strike that followed Khan Sheikhoun attack last year hasn’t successfully deterred the Syrian regime from suffocating its people to death with poison gases, as we have documented 13 chemical attacks after Khan Sheikhoun attack. As we have seen another American-French-British strike that allegedly targeted Al Assad’s chemical resources, the question remains, how many attacks we are going to document after this strike?”
The report draws upon accounts from survivors, eyewitnesses, paramedics, and central signal operators, as the report contains six accounts that were collected by speaking directly to the eyewitnesses, and are not cited from open sources. According to the report, some pictures showed remnants of yellow cylinders believed to having been loaded with a poison gas, while other pictures and videos show tens of dead bodies of women and children piled on top of each other, as the color of their faces turned into blue, their mouths covered in foam, and their eyes startled.
The report provides a background for the two attacks on Douma, shining a light on the offensives, starvation, and siege that the city of Douma had to endure. The report also highlights what preceded the attack and the simultaneous Russian-Syrian attacks that deliberately targeted medical facilities and medical teams.
The report outlines two chemical attacks carried out by the Syrian regime in northern Douma city on Saturday, April 7, 2018. The report suspects that government helicopters were responsible for the attacks which were carried out using poison gases-loaded barrel bombs. The report estimates the distance between the sites of the two attacks to be 300 meters, as 15 individuals, who suffered from suffocation symptoms, were injured in the first attack, while the second attack resulted in the killing of 41 civilians, who suffocated to death, including 12 children and 15 women (adult female). In addition, about 550 individuals were injured.
The report also sheds light on the contradicting Russian statements which reflect the crisis Russia is having as it tries to justify why its ally the Syrian regime has carried out this catastrophic attack. According to the report, this manifested in the contradicting Russian statements between denying the attack and asserting that all the evidences collected, including pictures and videos, are mere fabrications, and acknowledging the attack but accusing factions from the armed opposition of being responsible for it on other occasions.
The report also highlights the Russian and Syrian forces’ attempts to hinder and distort the investigation process, as Russian forces entered the attack site and tampered with its contents, before using its veto powers to prevent the formulation of an UN investigative mechanism that was charged with identifying the perpetrator of the attack. Additionally, the report stresses that Russia was eager to undermine and complicate the OPCW’s mission before it had even entered Douma by insisting on its demands to immediately evacuate the residents, before entering the city and holding, blackmailing, and threatening the doctors and nurses who treated the injured or saw the chemical strike and stayed in Douma.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has, through the use of chemical weapons in Douma, violated the customary international humanitarian law, 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 calls on the four permanent members at the Security Council to apply pressure on the Russian government in order to cease its support for the Syrian regime, who is using chemical weapons, and expose its implications in this regard.
In addition, the report calls on the COI and the IIIM to start investigating the two chemical attacks on Douma city, as well as the bombing incidents that preceded and the ones that followed and identify their perpetrators.
Further, the report calls on the EU and the US to bar Syria from chairing the UN disarmament forum on chemical weapons which is slated for late-May 2018 in light of the Syrian regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons.
The report emphasizes that states of the world should demonstrate a better unity against the Syrian regime, the main and primary user of chemical weapons in this century, and take serious, joint action to impose deterring, strict, real sanctions immediately. Also, the report calls on the states of the world 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 stop using its veto powers in order to shield the Syrian regime who is implicated in perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as using chemical weapons. In addition, the report says that the Russian government should launch an investigation into the support provided by Russian forces in Syria for the Syrian regime in the two attacks on Douma and the attacks before that, and stop hindering the referral of the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court.