Following last night’s deadly chemical weapons attack by Syrian regime forces in Idlib, Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition to the UN, Dr. Najib Ghadbian, wrote to the UN Security Council. His letter, transmitted to the Council on 17 March 2015, makes the following points:
- On 16 March 2015, Syrian regime forces dropped barrel bombs containing chorine gas on the villages of Sarmin and Kminas in Idlib province. The attacks resulted in six civilian deaths, including three children, a mother, father and grandmother.
- Given the propensity of two Security Council members to recklessly and repeatedly wield their vetoes in support of the Syrian regime, Syrians must look outside the Security Council for help. It is incumbent upon individual Members States to take the steps needed to protect the Syrian people – steps that they are legally entitled to take – and to establish a no-fly zone.
- A No-fly zone is needed to protect civilians from Assad’s aerial attacks; allow for secure access to humanitarian aid; enable refugees to return to Syria; and create the conditions needed to effectively fight extremists such as ISIL.
Evidence of yesterday’s chemical weapons attacks includes witness testimony, the assessments of medics on the ground present at the site, as well as graphic video footage, such as this video here depicting the death of innocent children as a result of chlorine gas attacks. Warning: these images are deeply disturbing. Full text of letter below and here.
H.E. Mr. François Delattre
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations
President of the UN Security Council
17 March 2015
On behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, it is with grave alarm that I draw your attention to a deadly chemical weapons attack perpetrated by Syrian regime aerial forces in the province of Idlib, and the urgent need for decisive Security Council action to stop the Syrian regime’s indiscriminate use of aerial power against civilians throughout Syria.
On Monday 16 March 2015, Syrian regime forces dropped barrel bombs containing chorine gas on the villages of Sarmin and Kminas in Idlib province, southwest of the city of Aleppo. Kminas was hit at 8:30PM and Sarmin was hit at 10:30PM. The chemical weapons attacks in Sarmin resulted in at least six civilian deaths, including those of three children, as well as their mother, father and grandmother. More than 70 other people reported suffering from choking symptoms, including seven members of the White Helmets civil defence team, who responded to the attacks. Medics and witnesses present at the site, as well as video footage taken of this illegal chemical weapons attack, offer clear evidence that the victims died of asphyxiation resulting from a toxic gas substance. Just hours after the attacks in Sarmin, Syrian regime forces launched scud missile attacks in Kafr Takharim, resulting in seven deaths.
The attacks in Idlib came just ten days after the Security Council adopted resolution 2209 (2015), which notes that “the use of toxic chemicals as a weapon would constitute a violation of resolution 2118” and decides that “in the event of future non-compliance with resolution 2118” the Security Council will “impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.”
The evidence is clear: the Syrian regime has not complied with UN Security Council resolution 2118. It has repeatedly and systematically violated international humanitarian and international human rights law, including the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, to which Syria acceded on 22 November 1968, as well as Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014) and 2209 (2015).
It is time that these resolutions were enforced. The Security Council has the legal and moral authority needed to end the suffering in Syria and to stop the regime from bombing innocent civilians. By enforcing its resolutions and imposing measures under Chapter VII – as it has decided to do in two separate resolutions on the use of chemical weapons – it will send a strong signal to the Assad regime that it cannot act with impunity. There are consequences.
It is clear that a no-fly zone – to ensure safe zones on the ground – would also be an appropriate and proportionate step for the Security Council to take. Such action would protect civilians from Assad’s aerial attacks; allow for secure access to humanitarian aid; enable refugees to return to Syria; and create the conditions needed to effectively fight extremists such as ISIL. The Security Council has the legal authority and responsibility to take such action. But given the propensity of two of its members recklessly and repeatedly to wield their vetoes in support of the Syrian regime, we must look outside the Security Council for help. It is incumbent upon individual Members States to take the steps needed to protect the Syrian people – steps that they are legally entitled to take – and to establish a no-fly zone over part of Syria. Failure to do so will prolong the suffering and loss of innocent Syrian lives, and will allow the direct security threat to the region and the world to become ever more imminent.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Dr. Najib Ghadbian
Special Representative to the United Nations
National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces