It Must Be Based on the Reports Issued by the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the Investigation and Identification Team’s Report to Hold the Syrian Regime Accountable for the Widespread Use of Chemical Weapons
(Link below to download full report)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) issued today a report in which it commented on the new report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that denies the Syrian regime’s and Russia’s allegations accusing the opposition of using chemical weapons, stressing the need to rely on the reports issued by the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the Investigation and Identification Team’s report to hold the Syrian regime accountable for the widespread use of chemical weapons.
The seven-page report notes that on Thursday, October 1, 2020, the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) issued two separate reports, in each of these it dealt with an incident of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. The first incident was on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against the people of Saraqeb city on August 1, 2016, which wasn’t under its control at the time, and the second was the Syrian regime’s allegation that the Syrian opposition used chemical weapons against neighborhoods in Aleppo city on November 24, 2018.
As the report reveals, the number of OPCW’s reports that included incidents of chemical weapons use has reached nearly 16 reports since June 2014, all of which dealt with nearly 60 possible chemical attacks in Syria, and had confirmed the use of chemical weapons in 43 of them, the last of which was the attack on Douma city in Damascus Suburbs governorate in April 2018.
The report outlines the results of the cross-check of incidents that the OPCW has documented with those documented on the SNHR database, noting that there is a match in 30 of the attacks recorded, with 28 of these attacks carried out by the Syrian regime, while the other two were carried out by ISIS.
On this basis, the report notes that a further 192 chemical weapons attacks documented on the SNHR’s database have not been investigated by the OPCW. These attacks are documented in great detail, including information such as time, place, type of munitions used, number of injuries, victims, etc.
The report notes that the SNHR has signed Principles of Cooperation document with the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), under which SNHR shared data it documented on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“We decisively support the professional work that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons carries out in accordance with the highest standards and methodologies used, and we hope that the rigorous evidence the OPCW has will be used in holding to account the Syrian regime that has used weapons of mass destruction against Syrian citizens dozens of times and misled the OPCW and the international community, as it became clear that all its allegations were false, including the Aleppo incident which it fabricated.”
The report states that through its report, the OPCW dealt a harsh blow to the Syrian regime and Russia, who falsely accused factions of the Armed Opposition of using chemical weapons in Aleppo city, referring to the measures taken by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally to support the investigation into the alleged Aleppo incident, where the Syrian regime provided access to environmental samples such as fragments of the weapons used, but did not provide any additional evidence, such as documentation and sample collection methodology, handling, or processing methodologies that were applied, nor any laboratory logbooks or information about the chain of custody, nor which samples were collected by the Syrian regime, and which samples were collected by Russia. Accordingly, the Fact-Finding Mission assessed the samples as low-value evidence, insufficient to establish a link between the reported incident and the samples. The report notes that the FFM itself analyzed the samples in OPCW designated laboratories. The scope of the analysis included scheduled chemicals, their precursors and degradation products, riot control agents (meaning tear gas used in riot control), and chlorinated organic chemicals. The laboratory reports did not show the presence of any such chemicals in the samples. Therefore, the FFM decided not to proceed with the collection of biomedical samples, as the analysis has to be targeted to the compounds found in the environmental samples or to specific signs and symptoms, which were not available.
The report stresses that Syrian regime obstructs the FFM work in the incidents in which the regime was involved in the use of chemical weapons, and it has also banned entry to the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry for nine years, as well as banned all independent human rights organizations, with the report noting that the ruling regime has not conducted any investigation into dozens of incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria, nor in any of the other violations that have reached the level of crimes against humanity.
As for the incident of Saraqeb specifically, the report notes that the FFM inability to visit Saraqeb city and the hospital contributed to the failure to confirm that chemicals were used as a weapon in the city. Despite that, the FFM noted that witness narratives of events were consistent and in line with the described medical signs and symptoms.
The report reveals that the Syrian regime facilitated the work of the Fact-Finding Mission concerning the incident in which it alleged that the Armed Opposition had used chemical weapons, with the regime harnessing the witnesses and doctors, the Jamraya laboratory, protection, visiting the site of the incident, and hospitals. The report further notes that this same regime has long obstructed and prevented the work of international investigation committees and independent human rights organizations, and still prevents the entry of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for nine years. The Syrian regime not only did that, but it also destroyed and distorted the site of the incident in the places it had regained control over, and it threatened the witnesses and the injured.
The report notes that the Jamraya Center is dominated by the regime’s security services; without a doubt, the results of its analyzes will be identical to what the Syrian regime wants, as there are no independent institutions under the Syrian regime.
The report stresses that results of the investigations conducted by the Syrian Network for Human Rights on the alleged Aleppo attack have shown since November 2018 that it was a fabrication by the Syrian regime with the support of Russian forces.
The report notes that Russia and the Syrian regime tried to mislead and deceive the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Aleppo incident, with the extent of Russia’s interest, concern and follow-up showing that it is a key partner in fabricating the Aleppo incident.
The report calls for relying upon the evidence and data possessed by the OPCW in order to hold the Syrian regime to account for its use of weapons of mass destruction, noting that the OPCW is distinguished by consisting of experts and specialists, using high standards in data collection and analysis, but, as the report notes, one of the most important features of the OPCW is its ability to analyze samples because of the laboratories it works with, with this feature being not available to local human rights organizations or research centers.
The report stresses that the OPCW has participated in the Joint Investigative Mechanism established by Security Council Resolution No. 2235, which issued seven reports, and found the Syrian regime responsible for the use of chemical weapons in five incidents; the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) is also affiliated with the OPCW, with the IIT issuing its first report in April 2020, condemning the Syrian regime use of chemical weapons in three incidents. The report states that these reports, along with the reports in which the OPCW has confirmed that a chemical weapon has been used, constitute a solid base that can be relied upon in holding the Syrian regime judicially to account, and more importantly, holding it politically accountable by not accepting its return to the fold of the international community, and considering it a rogue regime and an international outlaw.
The report calls on all countries of the world to fight and deter the Syrian regime, given its use of weapons of mass destruction, and to put serious pressure on it to achieve a political transition that leads to a democratic government that respects international law and human rights.