The Democratic States Meeting in The Hague Have to Overcome States Supporting the Use of Chemical Weapons
The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons in a repeated, systematic, and widespread manner constitute crimes against humanity. Despite the fact that all the Security Council Resolutions on chemical weapons on Syria have specified that measures would be taken against the Syrian regime under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations in the event of non-compliance with the American-Russian agreement, which was signed in the wake of the Two Ghoutas Attack in August 2013, as well as all relevant Security Council Resolutions, the Syrian regime continued its violations.
The report by SNHR, which was released today, sees the conference called for by the OPCW on June 26-27, 2018, as a real opportunity to correct some of the wrongs that have indeed reached the level of travesties with regard to the issue of chemical weapons in Syria. States of the free world have to overcome the pressure of Russia and its allies, seeing that Russia has blessed the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, the report adds.
The report stresses the importance of the findings of the OPCW’s upcoming report, which will address the chemical attacks in Douma, even if the organization doesn’t have the authority to conclusively identify the perpetrator in these crimes, as merely proving that a chemical weapon was used, the report notes, will thoroughly discredit the numerous contradicting claims by the Syrian and Russian regimes who asserted that no chemical weapons were used.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“What’s the point in determining the use of chemical weapons without identifying the perpetrator? Failing to enable the OPCW to uphold this task will mean that the mandate of determining this will be left to a Security Council-formed committee, which will be largely politicized. In case the findings of said committee conflicted with one of the state members, this would mean that its mandate will come to end, like what Russia did with the special committee on Syria in an effort to protect the Syrian regime and Russia itself who is implicated with the Syrian regime.”
The report outlines the use of chemical weapons in Syria according to SNHR’s database that was compiled as a result of a continuous work over the course of seven years, relying on accounts from survivors, eyewitnesses, and more particularly doctors who treated the injured, as well as civil defense members, in addition to analyzing videos and pictures which have mostly corresponded with the eyewitnesses’ accounts to yield a high level of credibility.
The report notes that 221 attacks were documented by SNHR from its first documented use on December 23, 2012, until June 22, 2018. Of those, the Syrian regime was responsible for 216 attacks, where Idlib and Damascus suburbs saw the majority of these attacks. On the other hand, ISIS was responsible for the remaining five attacks, all of which were in Aleppo governorate.
According to the report, these attacks resulted in the killing of 1,461 individuals who were all killed in attacks by the Syrian regime. The death toll was divided into 1,397 civilians, including 185 children and 252 women (adult female), 57 armed opposition fighters, and seven captives from Syrian regime force who were being held at an armed opposition prison. In addition, no less than 7,599 individuals were injured, including 7,472 who were injured in attacks by the Syrian regime, while 127 were injured in attacks carried out by ISIS.
The report adds that medical facilities were targeted in three attacks in Hama and Aleppo between December 23, 2012, and June 22, 2018.
The report sheds light on the toll of chemical weapons referred to in UN human rights reports, as the report says that the Commission of Inquiry have documented 34 attacks, including 28 for which the Syrian regime was responsible according to the COI, while the OPCW established the use of chemical weapons in 29 attacks without specifying a perpetrator. The report notes, however, that SNHR found out that the Syrian regime was involved in 27 of the 29 attacks, while ISIS was responsible for the remaining two by verifying those incidents against SNHR’s database.
Further, the report notes that the Joint Investigative Mechanism was able to prove the Syrian regime’s responsibility for five attacks, and ISIS’s for two from when it started operating on November 13, 2015, until its mandate ended on November 17, 2017.
Despite all the reports and international investigations, the report stresses, the Security Council has failed to deter the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons again, as the report notes that the Syrian regime carried out 33 chemical attacks before Security Council Resolution 2118, 183 attacks after Security Council Resolution 2118 until June 22, 2018, including 114 attacks after Security Council Resolution 2209, and 58 attacks after Security Council Resolution 2235. ISIS, on the other hand, carried out their five attacks after the three Resolutions.
Russia used its veto powers at the Security Council in favor of the Syrian regime on 12 occasions, including six vetoes that were related to the issue of chemical weapon use in particular. In this context, the report notes that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons in 20 attacks after the first Russian veto until the two most recent attacks in Douma city, Damascus suburbs on April 7, 2018, including 13 attacks after the second Russian veto, nine attacks after the third and fourth vetoes, and seven attacks after the fifth, while no attacks were recorded after the sixth Russian veto on April 10, 2018.
Not only has Russia backed the Syrian regime diplomatically, the report stresses, it also provided direct military support in three chemical attacks at least by having the Russian air force deliberately target medical facilities near the attack sites and also target routes used by paramedics to obstruct the process of aiding the injured.
The report also records no less than 20 chemical attacks that were carried out by the Syrian regime in the context of military progression on fronts the Syrian regime was trying to seize from factions from the armed opposition in Aleppo, Damascus suburbs, and Damascus.
The Assad regime used chemical weapons during President Barrack Obama’s term in 33 attacks, according to the report, before Security Council Resolution 2118, adopted in September 2013, and 158 after the same Resolution. On the other hand, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons 25 times, during President Donald Trump’s term, including 14 attacks after the US military strike on al Shayrat Military Airbase in April 2017.
The Syrian regime’s breaches weren’t limited to the American redline, as the Syrian regime has also violated France’s initiative which was announced on January 23, 2018, five times at least according to the report.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has, through the use of chemical weapons, violated the customary international humanitarian law, the CWC, and all relevant Security Council Resolutions, particularly Resolutions 2118, 2209, and 2235. Also, the use of chemical weapons constitutes a war crime according to the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute. The report also emphasizes 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, and expose Russian’s involvement in this regard.
The report calls on the COI and the IIIM to launch an investigation into all chemical attacks and identify their perpetrators.
Lastly, the repot calls on the CWC-signing states to establish a mechanism to support the efforts of the OPCW, where one of its main powers should be identifying the perpetrators of chemical attacks. In addition, the report calls on the OPCW, as an affected state, to submit a formal request to the UN Secretary General and to demand that those who were responsible for chemical weapon use are held accountable