ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – United Nations human rights investigators on Wednesday asserted the Syrian government used chemical weapons against rebels in Douma and the province of Idlib this year in attacks that constitute war crimes.
According to the investigative team, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chlorine, a banned chemical weapon, on three separate occasions in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma and in Idlib, Reuters reported.
The Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the body tasked with investigating all alleged violations of international human rights law in the country since the start of the civil war, has documented 39 incidents of chemical attacks, 33 of which are attributed to the government.
The investigators noted that weaponizing chlorine is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was ratified by Syria.
“To recapture eastern Ghouta in April, government forces launched numerous indiscriminate attacks in densely populated civilian areas, which included the use of chemical weapons,” the UN report said. This was in reference to the attacks earlier this year on the rebel-held town of Douma, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.
Following the attacks, the Syrian government and its ally, Russia, were accused of attempting to cover up the use of chemical weapons by delaying access to investigators in Douma. The US and other Western powers claimed that Syria attacked Douma with sarin, a lethal nerve agent, and followed that with a chlorine attack, intended partly to conceal the sarin.
Inspectors from the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were not given access to the site for two weeks. The more time that passes, the greater the difficulties in determining what chemicals were used.
In June, the member states of the OPCW, responsible for investigating the use of chemical weapons, voted on Wednesday to give it additional powers, aimed at holding accountable those who might use such weapons.
In recent years, the Assad regime has been the party most frequently employing banned chemical weapons. While investigating reports of the use of such weapons in Syria, the OPCW’s mission was to determine if they had been used, but not who was responsible.
Now, both the OPCW and the UN are building a case against the Syrian regime.
“The Commission concludes that, on these two occasions, government forces and or affiliated militias committed the war crimes of using prohibited weapons and launching indiscriminate attacks in civilian-populated areas in eastern Ghouta,” the UN report stated.
Editing by John J. Catherine