Chemical weapons used in Syria — UN Report

Posted Jun 4, 2013 by Paddy Reid
UN human rights inspectors say they have “reasonable grounds” to believe that the organisation have uncovered evidence of chemical weapons usage in Syria, although they have not placed the blame on either side.
Chance Agrella
The team said that it could have been either the forces of Syrian Prime Minister Bashar al-Assad or opposition rebels who could have made use of the weapons, which are banned under international law.
The investigation team say they made the discovery when they were examining four purported toxic attack scenes in the war-torn country back in March.
“The conflict in Syria has reached new levels of brutality. War crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations continue apace,” the inspectors said in their 29-page report.
The report, the fifth made by the team since civil war broke out in Syria over two years ago, was compiled using information gathered in more than 450 interviews carried out between January and May, as well as local reports and YouTube footage.
The team stressed that the attacks’ perpetrators must be brought to justice stating that “The documented violations are consistent and widespread; (there is) evidence of a concerted policy implemented by the leaders of Syria’s military and government”.
The investigative report, released to media outlets around the world, including Irish state broadcaster RTE , criticised both the insurgent rebels and the forces of under siege premier Bashar al-Assad for grotesque tactics, with show trials and subsequent executions – many involving innocent civilians – among the intimidatory tactics used by both sides. Eighty thousand fighters and civilians have lost their lives since hostilities began in March 2011.
Speaking after the release of the report, the chair of the UN Commission of inquiry commented on the report’s findings, saying that it is not possible for the body to determine exactly which agents had been used. “There are reasonable grounds to believe that limited quantities of toxic chemicals were used. It has not been possible, on the evidence available, to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator,” Paulo Pinheiro told a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the French foreign ministry has released a statement to underline its certainty that the banned nerve agent sarin has been used by a side in the conflict – though it cannot be sure which one. The statement, reported on by Al Jazeera, quotes French foreign minister Laurent Fabius as saying that tests conducted by French officials – which have since been handed to the UN “show the presence of sarin in various samples”. The ministry said that it is unacceptable for war criminals to continue to escape unpunished.
Another UN report released this week has urged the international community to refrain from assisting sides in the conflict, warning against a further escalation in the conflict. The warning came on the same day that Moscow defended its decision to supply the Assad regime with a fresh battery of missiles, a decision it says it took in response to the European-led initiative to arm the rebels aiming to drive Assad out of power.
“There is a human cost to the political impasse that has come to characterise the response of the international community to the war in Syria,” the report read. It went on to ask the international community to refrain from providing weaponry to either side in the conflict “given the clear risk that the arms will be used to commit serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law.”