IGOHR Welcomes Human Rights Watch Report and Condemns the use of Chlorine Bombs on Allepo

IGOHR Welcomes Human Rights Watch Report and Condemns the use of Chlorine Bombs on Allepo 15 February 2017

The International Organization for Human Rights (IGOHR) welcomes the Human Rights’ Watch report on the coordinated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime on civilians in Allepo during the final weeks of its taking control over the city. IGOHR strongly condemns the use of such chemicals weapons by the Syrian forces as it is against several international humanitarian laws and also calls on the United Nations and the international community to hold Syrian authorities responsible for the attacks.

The recent report by HRW detailed eight instances in which Syrian forces loyal to the ruling regime carried out systematic chemical attacks in residential areas in the rebel-controlled city of Allepo between November 17 and December 13, 2016. The pro-government forces conducted these attacks during an offensive military campaign to take over the city from opposition fighters. The series of chemical attacks resulted in the death of nine civilians including four children and injured over 200 others. Although it was difficult to detect the type chemical used in the absence of laboratory test, reports from witnesses and medical professionals in the area who observed the attacks suggests that chlorine was the main substance used.

The use of chlorine as a weapon in both international or non-international conflicts is prohibited in several international treaties and legislations such as The Hague Declaration concerning Asphyxiating Gases, the Geneva Gas Protocol, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Syria is a party to the CWC and the Geneva Gas Protocol but has failed to recognize its responsibility to desist from developing, acquiring or using chemical weapons against innocent civilians. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court criminalizes the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons targeting civilians as a war crime.

IGOHR views the latest incidents in Allepo as unacceptable and stresses that this isn’t the first time the Syrian forces are using chemical bombs in their military operations against opposition parties. In 2014, the organization released its own report – “Al-Ghouta Massacre .. An unpunished Crime” – which described the massive massacre and the use of chlorine bombs by Syrian forces as well as war crimes committed by the Syrian regime in Al Ghouta city. Yet, no one was apprehended for the crimes.  Thus, IGOHR reiterates that the continues use of these weapons without being held accountable results in impunity and a gross violation of the rights to justice of the Syrian people in line with international norms.

IGOHR therefore calls on the Syrian government to cease with immediate effect the use of chemical weapons indiscriminately targeting civilian population. IGOHR further calls on the UN and the Security Council to properly investigate and hold accountable impose specific sanctions on those responsible for the use of chlorine bombs in all the different instances and to refer these individuals or groups to the ICC for prosecution in accordance with international humanitarian principles. IGOHR urges the international community to pressure Syria to respect its obligations under international laws and treaties and refrain from the purchase and use of chemical weapons in its military operations.