Chemical weapons in Syria
On October 26, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), a body established by unanimous decision of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), concluded that the Assad regime is responsible for the use of sarin in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017. We have full trust in the JIM’s findings, its professionalism and independence. The Syrian regime violated again not only the Chemical Weapons Convention but also international law. We condemn unreservedly this heinous act and demand that the Syrian regime immediately cease any and all use of chemical weapons and finally declare to the OPCW all chemical weapons that it possesses.
The JIM also found that ISIS/Daesh was responsible for a sulfur mustard attack on the town of Um Housh in September 2016 on two consecutive days. We also condemn unreservedly this despicable act, and we are united in our determination to defeat this abhorrent terrorist movement once and for all. We condemn the use of chemical weapons by anyone anywhere.
We agree with the JIM’s assessment that it is vital for the international community to continue to investigate cases where chemical weapons have been used in Syria. We therefore urge the United Nations Security Council to maintain the JIM’s investigative capacity. We also call on the OPCW Executive Council to take action in response to the JIM report to send an unequivocal signal that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons will be held accountable.
All of this reinforces the fact that Assad is waging a brutal war against his own people and can have no role in Syria’s future.
Sadly, this is not the first report identifying those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. In 2016, the JIM came to the conclusion that the Syrian regime was responsible for the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon in at least three attacks in 2014 and 2015, and ISIS/Daesh used sulfur mustard once in 2015.
And there is more work for the JIM to do. The OPCW has now reported that a sarin attack “more than likely” took place in Al Lataminah in Syria, just a week before and 15 kilometers from the sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun. The OPCW did not identify a perpetrator, but the attack it described bears the hallmarks of the Syrian Regime.
A robust international response is now essential to hold those responsible to account, seek justice for the victims of these abhorrent attacks and to prevent such attacks from happening again. After such a report, the Security Council and all its members have a common responsibility to protect the international non-proliferation regime and live up to their previous commitments.