OPCW-UN Must Investigate Regime Use of Chemical Agents in Kafr Zita

Below is the text of a 16 April 2014 letter from Syrian Coalition Special Representative to the UN Dr. Najib Ghadbian to the UN Security Council.

PDF of Syrian Coalition Letter to the UN Security Council on Use of Chemical Agents

 

16 April 2014

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, it is my grave responsibility to draw to your attention the urgent need for an immediate investigation into the recent use of chemical agents by Syrian regime forces in the Syrian town of Kafr Zita.

On Friday 11 April, Syrian regime aerial forces bombarded the opposition-held town of Kafr Zita with explosive barrels loaded with chemical and toxic gases. Witnesses present at the site have stated that the explosions produced thick yellow-colored smoke and strong odors, with victims displaying symptoms ranging from suffocation and choking to vomiting, foaming at the mouth and in several cases, hypertension. It is highly likely that the chemical agent responsible for causing such suffering is chlorine gas. This dual use chemical is lethal when deployed for military purposes. Its usage 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. Moreover, the use of chlorine gas as a chemical weapon of war represents a direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013), in which Security Council members unanimously decided that the Syrian regime "shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons".

Your Excellency, of the 200 victims of the 11 April 2014 attacks in Kafr Zita, a majority were innocent civilians. The Syrian regime cannot be permitted to deploy this lethal agent of war with impunity. Failure to act today will only condemn more civilians to future chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime. It is therefore incumbent upon the Security Council to mandate without delay an independent investigation into the Kafr Zita attacks. This investigation should be charged with verifying the circumstances of the 11 April 2014 tragedy and be empowered to determine the party responsible for ordering these illegal aerial attacks.

As per the Syrian Coalition's letter to members of the Council on 11 April 2014, it remains imperative that independent inspectors from the OPCW-UN Joint Mission visit the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center charged with producing Syria's chlorine gas. Such a visit will allow Joint Mission investigators to determine with greater accuracy the full extent of the Syrian regime's chemical weapons arsenal and the status of its alleged compliance with UN Security Council 2118 (2013).

Your Excellency, the Syrian Coalition and its partner, the Free Syrian army, remain committed to cooperating fully with the OPCW-UN Joint Mission and we stand ready to facilitate an independent investigation by UN monitors to the town of Kafr Zita. Should the Syrian regime be found to have deployed chemical weapons against innocent civilians in the Syrian town of Kafr Zita, we trust that the Security Council will impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, as required by UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013).

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

 

Dr. Najib Ghadbian

Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations

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