Both Attacks Were Confirmed by UN Investigation Committees, Local and International Organizations, with the Perpetrator Now Preparing to ‘Win’ Presidential Elections
(Link below to download full report)
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) stated in its report released today marking the fourth anniversary of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun city and the third anniversary of its chemical weapons attack on Douma city, that both attacks were confirmed by UN investigation committees, as well as by local and international organizations, with the perpetrator now preparing to ‘win’ the presidential elections.
The five-page report notes that the Syrian regime continues to enjoy total impunity despite years of using weapons of mass destruction, recalling the heinous crimes that took place this month in previous years in the cities of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, and Douma in Damascus Suburbs; this year marks the fourth anniversary of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun city on April 4, 2017, and the third anniversary of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack on Douma city on April 7, 2018.
As the report reveals, the SNHR team documented the deaths by suffocation of 91 civilians, including 32 children and 23 women (adult female), and the injury of about 520 individuals, when the regime used chemical weapons against Khan Sheikhoun city on April 4, 2017, with the team also subsequently recording the deaths of 39 civilians, including 10 children and 15 women (adult female), and the injury of about 550 more individuals, when the regime used chemical weapons against Douma city in Damascus Suburbs on April 7, 2018.
The report notes that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (COI) confirmed the Syrian regime’s responsibility for both the Khan Sheikhoun and Douma attacks; the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also confirmed the events of the chemical weapons attacks in both Khan Sheikhoun and Douma, though without identifying the perpetrator of these attacks, while the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) established by UN Security Council Resolution 2235 of August 2015 confirmed the Syrian regime’s responsibility for the Khan Sheikhoun attack only, with Russia, through its veto, ending its mandate before the Douma attack took place.
The report adds that it had been assumed that, after these accurate and highly credible investigations, the UN Security Council would move to take all forms of active measures, including the imposition of economic, political and military sanctions, against the Syrian regime, which has violated all the relevant Security Council resolutions – Resolution No. 2118, Resolution No. 2209, and Resolution No. 2235; the report adds, however, this has not happened even after the passage of three and four full years respectively since the two attacks, with the families of the civilians who were killed and injured still waiting for justice and accountability for the perpetrators.
The report assigns direct responsibility for the movement and use of chemical weapons to the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al Assad, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Armed Forces, affirming that it is not even possible to carry out actions far smaller than this without his knowledge and approval, let alone such a major operation. The report notes that International Humanitarian Law takes into account the hierarchical nature of the armed forces and the discipline imposed by leaders and holds commanders criminally responsible at the personal level, not only for the actions and breaches they have personally committed but also for the actions committed by their subordinates. The report adds that the relation of the head of the regime and its leaders and the very strict and centralized chain of command all mean that the head of the Syrian regime Bashar al Assad and the senior leadership officials are all directly involved, through the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction, in committing violations that amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people. The report further adds that despite all these facts, Bashar al Assad is currently preparing to ‘win’ the upcoming presidential elections, and that he is able to attain this sham ‘victory’ through the use of chemical weapons and the killing and displacement of civilians.
The report further notes that SNHR has documented a total of 222 chemical attacks on Syria since the first attack using chemical weapons documented on SNHR’s database on December 23, 2012, up until April 7, 2021, with 217 of these attacks – approximately 98% – carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and the five other attacks – approximately 2% – at the hands of ISIS.
As the report further reveals, the Syrian regime’s attacks caused the deaths of 1,510 individuals, categorized as 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 Armed Opposition prisons.
These chemical attacks also injured 11,080 individuals, including five Syrian regime prisoners of war who were being held in Armed Opposition prisons.
ISIS, meanwhile, carried out five chemical attacks since its establishment on April 9, 2013, up until April 7, 2021, which resulted in the injury of 132 individuals.
The report refers to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) latest report, the thirty-third such report, in which it stated that the COI had documented 38 chemical attacks in Syria, and assigned responsibility to the Syrian regime in 32 of these attacks, and 1 to ISIS. According to the COI’s report, each of these uses of chemical weapons constitutes a war crime.
Based on all of the aforementioned information in this report, in addition to the report by the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), which confirmed the responsibility of the Syrian regime for three chemical attacks, this report calls on the OPCW to take the ultimate possible measures against the Syrian regime at the upcoming meeting of the States Parties, taking place between April 20-22, 2021, given the regime’s flagrant violation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Use of Chemical Weapons, to refer the issue of the use of chemical weapons in Syria to the Security Council with the recommendation that it take serious actions under Chapter VII, and urges the OPCW not to yield to Russian pressure that supports the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction against the Syrian people.
The report adds that, in the event that the Security Council fails to take effective and concrete measures, the OPCW should proceed by taking the case to the United Nations General Assembly and demanding intervention based on Resolution 337, aka the Uniting for Peace Resolution, and finally that it should request all member states, the vast majority of the world’s nations, to impose multiple sanctions on the Syrian regime and use their national judiciaries to hold the regime accountable for its use of Chemical Weapons of mass destruction.