IGOHR Calls for an End to Civilian Massacre in Syria by the use of Chemical Weapons

IGOHR Calls for an End to Civilian Massacre in Syria by the use of Chemical Weapons 06 April 2017

The International Gulf Organization for Human Rights (IGOHR) condemns in its strongest terms the gruesome, appalling and indiscriminate chemical attack in Syria that have caused scores of civilian causalities. IGOHR considers the continuous and despicable act of using chemical weapons against innocent civilians in Syria is highly unacceptable and a blatant violation of the rules of war and the principles of international humanitarian law.

Recent reports on the ongoing conflict in Syria have revealed that chemical gases were released in the rebel-held town in Idlib province, northwestern part of the country. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – a UK based human rights organization monitoring the war in Syria – the chemical attack has claimed the lives of at least 72 civilians including 17 women and 10 children. Several families died entirely of asphyxiation with foam covering their mouths which is a clear sign of inhaling poisonous chemical gases. Scores of other residents were wounded.

The International Organization for human Rights stresses that use of chemical weapons in armed conflicts – international or non-international – is against the values stated in many international covenants, treaties as well as the rules of the international humanitarian law. For example, The Hague Declaration concerning Asphyxiating Gases, the Geneva Gas Protocol, the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) all strongly prohibits the use of “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices” and “bacteriological methods of warfare”. Syria is a State party to most of these conventions but has failed to recognize its responsibility to desist from developing, acquiring and using chemical weapons against innocent civilians especially since the uprising in 2011. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court criminalizes the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons targeting civilians as a war crime and crime against humanity.

In 2013, the international community was appalled by the chemical attack on civilians in Eastern Ghouta by forces loyal to Syrian regime with an estimated death toll ranging between 281 and 1,729. But sadly no one was held accountable nor prosecuted for the horrific act. The Syrian forces have equally carried out several similar attacks in rebel-held areas causing numerous deaths. Thus, the recent incident in Khan Sheikhoun (Idlib province) evidently shows that Syria has entered a cycle of using chemicals weapons on its civilians with impunity. IGOHR emphasizes that such attacks with the aim of killing civilians indiscriminately and with impunity is gross violation of the right to life, security of person and justice to the Syrian people. This must stop, there must put an end to the massacre of civilians by use of chemical weapons or any other means.

IGOHR therefore strongly condemns the chemical attack in Idlib province and calls on the UN Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to swiftly investigate on the incident and take actions that would lead to penalizing the Syrian regime or rebels for their indifference in continuing to commit offenses using chemical weapons. This will be a means of seeking justice for the affected victims and their families. IGOHR urges the international community to pressure Syria to respect its obligations under international laws and treaties and refrain from the development, pilling and use of chemical weapons in its military operations. IGOHR further calls on the UN to speed-up peace talks and reach sustainable solutions to end the ongoing conflict in Syria. IGOHR also expresses its sincere sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims.