Damascus Suburbs Was Subjected to 71 Chemical Attacks, with 2015 Witnessing the Highest Number of Chemical Attacks in the Past Nine Years
(Link below to download full report)
In its report released today to mark the seventh anniversary of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack on the two Ghoutas on August 21, 2013, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) states that Damascus Suburbs was subjected to 71 chemical weapons attacks, with 2015 witnessing the highest number of chemical attacks in the past nine years.
The 12-page report stresses that while the victims’ families who lost their children and other loved ones are still waiting for the international community to fulfill its promises and to act on its ‘red line’ to punish the Syrian regime, whose use of chemical weapons against Syrian citizens has been repeatedly proven, shamefully no form of accountability has been achieved so far. Indeed, the same regime, led by the Assad family, which used chemical weapons on August 21, 2013, remains in power and continues to rule over Syria with the same murderous mentality, through reliance on tens of thousands of security personnel like all totalitarian regimes.
As the report recalls, the two Ghoutas attack, together with the type and number of munitions loaded with gases used and the high death toll of victims, shocked the whole world. The report further notes that Syrian soceity hoped, after such an unspeakable atrocity, that the international community would take real and decisive action in response to the Syrian regime’s flagrant breach of the ‘red lines’ drawn for it by several major world powers, contributing to the realization of the rights of the victims who were killed or injured, and achieving the type of punishment that the Syrian regime deserves for such a monstrous act and for its many other brutal practices against the Syrian citizens.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“The Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack on the two Ghoutas of Damascus is considered the largest chemical attack known to the world since the adoption of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on April 29, 1997, and constituted a shock to humanity and civilization. Even worse than the attack itself, however, was the international community’s failure to punish the Syrian regime for carrying out such an attack, encouraging the regime to repeat similar chemical attacks dozens of times after that, and contributing to the majority of Syrians losing hope and faith in justice and international law; the anger at this failure provided a rich source of resentment which was exploited by extremist groups to recruit hundreds of people despairing of any hope of justice from the international community, into their ranks.”
The report outlines the details of the two Ghoutas attack and stresses that it was carried out by the Syrian regime with the planned and deliberate intention of exterminating as many Syrian people as possible by using large amounts of sarin gas. The attack took place in the early hours of the morning after midnight while people were asleep, thus minimizing their chances of survival, with the report noting that the relatively low temperature estimated in the area that night and the lack of any breeze there during the period between 02:00 a.m. and 05:00 a.m. indicates that those launching the missiles knew that the heavy poison gases would settle and remain close to the ground rather than scattering or being blown away.
As the report reveals, 1,144 individuals were killed by suffocation that day, including 1,119 civilians, amongst them 99 children and 194 women (adult female) and 25 Armed Opposition fighters, while 5,935 other people were injured, suffering respiratory and suffocation symptoms.
In addition, the report reveals that this death toll constitutes approximately 76% of the total victims killed as a result of the chemical attacks launched by the Syrian regime since December 2012 up until the most recent attack using chemical weapons which SNHR documented in al Kbaina in Latakia suburbs in May 2019.
The report documents a total of 222 chemical attacks on Syria since the first attack using chemical weapons documented by SNHR on December 23, 2012, until August 21, 2020, with approximately 98% of these carried out at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, and nearly 2% at the hands of ISIS, with 2015 witnessing the largest number of such attacks. The report also distributes the attacks across the governorates, with Damascus Suburbs governorate witnessing the largest number of attacks, followed by Idlib governorate.
As the report further reveals, the Syrian regime caused the deaths of 1,510 individuals, distributed to 1,409 civilians, including 205 children and 260 women (adult female), 94 Armed Opposition fighters, and seven Syrian regime prisoners of war who were being held in the Armed Opposition prisons.
These chemical attacks also injured 11,080 individuals, including five Syrian regime prisoners of war who were being held in the Armed Opposition prisons.
ISIS, meanwhile, carried out five chemical attacks since its establishment on April 9, 2013, until August 21, 2020, all of which were in Aleppo governorate, and resulted in the injury of 132 individuals
The report inlcudes the distribution of the record of chemical attacks according to Security Council resolutions, as the attacks carried out by the Syrian regime were divided into: 33 attacks prior to Security Council Resolution 2118 and 184 attacks after it, while 115 more attacks were carried out after Security Council Resolution 2209, and 59 additional attacks after the formation of the United Nations Mechanism and the Security Council Resolution 2235. As for the five attacks carried out by ISIS, they constitute, according to the report, a breach to Security Council Resolutions 2118, 2209, and 2235.
The report stresses that Russia’s and China’s use of the veto in the Security Council for the benefit of the Syrian regime has contributed to increasing the number of deaths and injuries among the Syrian people. The report further notes that both states have blocked the passage of many draft resolutions that would have contributed to punishing the Syrian regime and deterring it from committing numerous violations, including the use of chemical weapons. Although Russia entered directly as a party to the armed conflict in Syria in September 2015, it has continued to use its veto, which blatantly violates the Charter of the United Nations.
The report also emphasizes that in light of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia, China and other totalitarian dictatorships have raised their voices to call on those nations which imposed sanctions on the Syrian regime, urging them to reduce or lift those sanctions, supposedly so that the Syrian regime can combat this pandemic. The report adds that through their decision to stand by the Syrian regime, even on the issue of its use of the most horrific and internationally outlawed types of weapons, these countries which are demanding the lifting of sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime supposedly under the pretext of easing the impact of the pandemic on the Syrian people clearly demonstrate the extent of the blatant and abject hypocrisy and deceit that they have reached. Rather than standing by the Syrian people and their just demands for freedom and human rights, condemning the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, and demanding that it be held accountable and punished, these states have chosen to be accomplices to and supporters of its crimes.
The report calls on the United Nations and the UN Security Council to impose economic, political and military sanctions on the Syrian regime on the anniversary of its use of chemical weapons in the Eastern and Western Ghoutas of Damascus, as well as calling on the Syrian regime’s allies to condemn its use of chemical weapons, to work with the rest of the world to hold the Syrian regime accountable, and to pressure it to enter into a political process that leads to a real political transition towards democracy, which would contribute to lifting sanctions and moving towards democracy and stability.
The report notes that since it has been proven that the UN Security Council has failed for nine years to date to end any of the Syrian regime’s crimes against humanity or to refer them to the International Criminal Court, the United Nations General Assembly should intervene based on Resolution No. 377 of 1950 (the Uniting for Peace Resolution), and to work to refer the case to the International Criminal Court and hold all those involved in using chemical weapons against Syrian citizens accountable
The report recommends that the European Union, the United States of America, Canada, Australia and the rest of the world’s nations that imposed sanctions on the Syrian regime should insist on a permanent link between the issue of sanctions and the achievement of a real political transition since easing the sanctions in the presence of the same individuals and entities involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes means providing support to these repressive entities.
The report also recommends that the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) should promptly transfer responsibility to the Security Council, which should be requested to intervene in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, given that a Member State’s use of weapons of mass destruction is assumed to constitute a serious threat to international peace and security, recommending it also to work more on the issue of holding accountable all Syrian regime individuals involved in the use of chemical weapons, including senior leaders. We at the Syrian Network for Human Rights have full details on our database of those involved in committing violations, as well as data on a large number of the individuals who contributed to the use of chemical weapons, and we will, according to the agreement signed with the Investigation and Identification Team, coordinate for further cooperation in this context.