Urgent Need for OPCW Fact-Finding Mission at Sites of New CW Attacks

On 22 May, 2014, the Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations Dr. Najib Ghadbian, sent the following letter to the Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Download the complete letter here.

 

22 May 2014

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the people of Syria and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, I would like to draw to your attention three new chemical weapons attacks which took place yesterday in the towns of Kafr Zita and Al Tamanah and the urgent need for the OPCW fact-finding mission to be dispatched to these locations.

Your Excellency, on the morning and evening of Thursday 22 May, Syrian regime aerial forces bombarded the towns of Kafr Zita and Al Tamanah with explosive barrels loaded with toxic chemical gases.  Video footage of the incidents provides clear and conclusive evidence that these explosions produced thick yellow-colored smoke, consistent with the deployment of chlorine gas.  Victims at both scenes reported symptoms which included choking.

As you are aware, the use of chlorine gas as a weapon of war 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 Resolution 2118 (2013), in which Security Council members unanimously and explicitly prohibited the Syrian regime from further use of chemical weapons.

Your Excellency recently reported to the OPCW Executive Council that the OPCW fact-finding mission on allegations of use of chlorine gas in Syria has begun to prepare for on-site activities in Syria. Given yesterday’s revelations, it is vital that the mission verify the May 22nd chlorine attacks, and act without delay to dispatch monitors to Kafr Zita and Al Tamanah. Immediate verification is needed to determine with certainty the veracity of these attacks.

It is also critical that the mission be empowered to determine the party responsible for ordering these illegal chemical assaults. The OPCW must make clear that those responsible for chemical weapons attacks will be identified and ultimately, be brought to justice for their atrocities. Anything less than a clear designation of responsibility by the OPCW will allow such crimes to continue and risks setting a precedent for further chemical weapons attacks in Syria.    

Your Excellency, the Syrian Coalition and its partner, the Free Syrian army, remain committed to cooperating fully with the OPCW Mission. As always, we stand ready to assist OPCW monitors in gaining full and immediate access to Kafr Zita and Al Tamanah. 

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

 

Dr. Najib Ghadbian

Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations

 

CC: United Nations Security Council Member States

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