Rapid Increase in Chemical Attacks in Syria Demonstrates Urgent Need for Safe Zones

On 5 May, the Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition to the UN, Dr. Najib Ghadbian, delivered a letter to the Security Council calling attention to the most recent chlorine attacks on Idlib and Hama. The letter calls on the Security Council to act with urgency to:

  • stop the systematic use of chlorine gas through the implementation of a safe zone enforced by a no-fly zone.  A no-fly zone would put an immediate end to Assad’s deployment of chemical gas by air.  It would save lives, alleviate suffering and begin to lay the foundation towards a political solution.
  • name and shame those responsible for the chlorine gas attacks.  To date, the OPCW Fact Finding Mission has not been mandated to determine responsibility for the use of chlorine gas.  The reason for this is clear: one member of the Security Council wishes to ensure a lack of accountability.  This must change.  Anyone and everyone responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be identified and held accountable in a court of law.      
  • pursue justice through all legal means.  A lack of consensus among Security Council members continues to prevent the Council from authorizing the foremost instrument capable of delivering justice to victims: an International Criminal Court (ICC) referral.  If the Security Council is incapable of referring the situation in Syria to the ICC because of the irresponsible use of the veto, concerned Member States should establish an alternative mechanism such as an ad hoc tribunal.

A copy of the letter is pasted below and a pdf is available here.


 

H.E. Ms. Raimonda Murmokaité
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of Lithuania to the United Nations
President of the UN Security Council
 
5 May 2015
 
 
Your Excellency,
 
It is with great concern that I draw your attention to an alarming proliferation of chlorine gas attacks perpetrated by Syrian regime forces in Idlib and Hama governorates, and the urgent need for Security Council action to prevent further atrocities, including through the imposition of Chapter VII measures of the UN Charter, as required by UN Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2209 (2015).
 
In the past two weeks alone, witnesses and medics on the ground in Idlib and Hama governorates reported at least nine separate instances of toxic chemical attacks – several of them deadly.  As described in Annex I, in each instance, barrel bombs loaded with poisonous chemical substances were deployed from Syrian regime helicopters.  More than 150 civilians sustained injuries as a result of these attacks and suffered symptoms ranging from suffocation to labored breathing.  At least two children died as a result of these attacks—both under the age of three.    
 
It is highly likely that the chemical agent responsible for causing such suffering was once again chlorine gas.  Lethal when deployed for military purposes, chlorine’s use as a chemical weapon constitutes a war crime as defined by the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed in Geneva on 17 June 1925, and to which Syria acceded on 22 November 1968.  It also represents a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2209 (2015).
 
Since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2118 in September 2013, the will of the Security Council has been repeatedly, systematically and willfully violated.  More than 92 separate incidents of chemical weapons use have been recorded since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), including more than 25 separate incidents since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2209 (2015) just two months ago.  But this past week’s atrocities represent the most prolific use of chemical weapons by Syrian regime forces to date.  Syrian Civil Defense teams are struggling to keep pace with the growing increase in chemical weapons use by Syrian regime forces—and Syrian civilians are dying as a result.
 
Your Excellency, the failure to enforce Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2209 (2015) represents a permanent stain on the international community, and the Security Council in particular.  The failure to enforce the will of the Council has allowed impunity to reign. It has cost lives in Syria.  And it has prolonged the crisis—fuelling the rise of terrorist extremist groups like ISIL and imperiling regional and now global security.
 
Existing resolutions on Syria can and must be enforced, including through the adoption of Chapter VII measures of the UN Charter, as mandated by Security Council resolutions 2118 and 2209.  Without such enforcement, more civilians will die and this conflict will continue to threaten international peace and security.
 
On behalf of the people of Syria and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, I am therefore calling on the Security Council to work without delay to:
 
      I.      stop the systematic use of chlorine gas through the implementation of a safe zone enforced by a no-fly zone.  A no-fly zone would put an immediate end to Assad’s deployment of chemical gas by air.  It would save lives, alleviate suffering and begin to lay the foundation towards a political solution.
 
     II.      name and shame those responsible for the chlorine gas attacks.  To date, the OPCW Fact Finding Mission has not been mandated to determine responsibility for the use of chlorine gas.  The reason for this is clear: one member of the Security Council wishes to ensure a lack of accountability.  This must change.  Anyone and everyone responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be identified and held accountable in a court of law.      
 
   III.       pursue justice through all legal means.  A lack of consensus among Security Council members continues to prevent the Council from authorizing the foremost instrument capable of delivering justice to victims: an International Criminal Court (ICC) referral.  If the Security Council is incapable of referring the situation in Syria to the ICC because of the irresponsible use of the veto, concerned Member States should establish an alternative mechanism such as an ad hoc tribunal.

Your Excellency, the priority of the Syrian National Coalition is to save the lives of our people.  There is no reason that one more Syrian should be gassed to death by a brutal dictator intent on exploiting his monopoly of air power to barrel bomb his own people into submission.  To stop the barrel bombs in Syria, the Security Council must deny the regime’s ability to kill by air. A no-fly zone is the best way to do so. Should the Security Council fail to reach the consensus needed to authorize a safe zone, then I urge Member States to act on their own legal and moral authority to save lives in Syria and take the steps necessary to provide protection to our people.  

Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration. 

Dr. Najib Ghadbian
Special Representative to the United Nations

 

 

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment


National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces
Committed to a free, democratic, and pluralistic Syria.