Immediate Intervention Must Be Made Through an International Coalition to Protect Civilians in Syria Like the NATO Intervention in Kosovo
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) states in its latest report released today that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons again in Latakia and the United States, France and Britain must fulfill their promises.
The nine-page report recalls the chemical attack launched by the Syrian regime on Douma city in Damascus Suburbs governorate on April 7, 2018, which resulted in the deaths by suffocation of 39 civilians, including 10 children and 15 women (adult female), as well as causing respiratory and neurological symptoms in another 550 people.
The report asserts that, in order to defend the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons and to encourage it to continue using chemical weapons, the Russian state vetoed a draft resolution on the formation of a commission of inquiry on the use of chemical weapons on April 10, 2018, the twelfth time that the Russian state used its veto in favor of the Syrian regime concerning the use of chemical weapons and perpetration of other gross violations constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes.
According to the report, the military strike launched by the American, British and French forces on three sites in Syria connected with the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons program on April 14, 2018 was extremely limited and did not weaken the Syrian regime’s ability to continue to commit horrendous violations, or force it to rethink its use of chemical weapons, with the regime effectively reassured that any reaction to use of such weapons would be limited at most to ineffectual airstrikes which wouldn’t restrict its ability to perpetrate further crimes. The US coalition’s action also wasn’t followed by any political steps to create a roadmap aimed at ending the Syrian conflict and moving towards real political, pluralistic and democratic change that could achieve stability and justice.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of SNHR, adds:
“The US president, the French president and the British Prime Minister have threatened the Syrian regime that if chemical weapons are used again, there will be a decisive response. The Syrian regime has indeed again been proven to be involved in using chemical weapons, the only regime on the planet that still uses chemical weapons, and Syrian society is still waiting for these leaders to fulfil the promises made, and to hold the Syrian regime to account in a serious and effective way.”
As the report states, the Syrian regime has committed grave crimes and violations against Syrian civilians for eight years. It has also consistently failed to respond to any of the demands of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, or to those of the High Commission for Human Rights, or even to Security Council resolutions. The Security Council, which was supposed to take collective measures and action under Article 41 and 42 of the Charter of the United Nations, also failed because of the immunity granted by Russia to the Syrian regime, with Russia routinely using its veto in the case of the Syrian regime, which has not only failed to abide by its responsibility for the protection of civilians, but committed the most egregious violations against them, reaching the level of crimes against humanity, and extermination within detention centers through torture.
The report further states that what has continued to happen in Syria at the hands of the regime is represented not only by one massacre or one violation but by industrial-scale killings and torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearances, the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs, and besieging civilians. The report quotes a report issued by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in December 2001, which stated: “The Security Council should take into account in all its deliberations that, if it fails to discharge its responsibility to protect in conscience-shocking situations crying out for action, concerned states may not rule out other means to meet the gravity and urgency of that situation”
The report outlines the details of the first documented attack by the Syrian regime using chemical weapons since the attack on Douma city. On this occasion, Syrian Regime forces stationed in the Jeb al Ahmar area to the south of al Kbaina village in the eastern suburbs of Latakia, used a missile launcher to fire three missiles loaded with poison gas which targeted a base used by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham on a hill in the southwestern outskirts of al Kbaina village, resulting in the injury of four of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s fighters, who exhibited symptoms of breathing difficulty, redness of the eyes and tearing.
The report points out that the chemical attack on al Kbaina village came in the context of a military advance on the villages of the eastern suburbs of Latakia and as part of a military campaign launched by the Syrian-Russian alliance since April 26, 2019, on the Idlib de-escalation zone (consisting of parts of the governorates of Hama, Idlib, Aleppo and Latakia), which is the last de-escalation zone outside the control of Syrian Regime forces.
According to the report, approximately 222 chemical attacks have been documented by SNHR between December 23, 2012, the date of the first use of chemical weapons in Syria to be documented by the SNHR, and May 20, 2019; the Syrian regime carried out 217 of these chemical attacks, mostly in the governorates of Damascus Suburbs and Idlib, while ISIS carried out five other attacks, all in Aleppo governorate. These attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 1,461 individuals. All of the victims who died in the attacks carried out by the Syrian regime are categorized as follows: 1,397 civilians, including 185 children, and 252 women (adult female), 57 Armed Opposition fighters, and seven Syrian regime prisoners of war who were being held in an opposition prison.
The report further reveals that the chemical attacks injured at least 9,889 individuals, categorized as follows: 9,757 were injured following attacks by the Syrian regime, and 132 were injured following attacks by ISIS.
The report confirms that by using chemical weapons in al Kbaina village, the Syrian regime has again violated customary international humanitarian law, the Chemical Weapons Convention and all relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution numbers 2118, 2209, and 2235. The use of chemical weapons also constitutes a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The report stresses that the four other permanent members of the Security Council should pressure the Russian government to stop its support for the Syrian regime which uses chemical weapons, and should expose its involvement in this regard.
The report urges both the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to immediately investigate the attack on al Kbaina village, as well as the bombing incidents that preceded and followed it, and identify those involved.
The report also calls on the European Union and the United States of America to support the International Impartial Mechanism established by General Assembly resolution 71/248 of December 21, 2016, and to open the courts of local states which have the principle of universal jurisdiction, and to prosecute war crimes committed in Syria.
The report recommends that states should demonstrate greater solidarity against the Syrian regime, which is the main and most prominent user of chemical weapons of this century to date, and must act seriously and collectively to apply strict, deterrent, genuine and immediate sanctions, urging them to create a humanitarian alliance aimed at protecting Syrian civilians from chemical weapons and barrel bombs, because Russia will continue to obstruct the Security Council and to use its veto with impunity.
The report calls on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to identify those responsible for the attack on al Kbaina village and for other chemical attacks under its new mandate, and thus help to hold the Security Council and the international community – primarily the allies of the Syrian regime – to greater accountability, adding that it must rule out any consideration of any kind of relationship with a regime that uses weapons of mass destruction against civilians in the modern age before the eyes of the world at large.