With the announcement this week by a United Nations commission that chemical agents have been used in Syria in recent months, it is increasingly clear that either Syrian military forces and/or rebel forces have used banned chemical agents in the two-year-old civil war.
Paulo Pinheiro, who chairs the UN commission of inquiry on Syria, stated in a news conference in Geneva on 4 June 2013 that investigators had examined four reported toxic chemical attacks in March and April and determined that there were “reasonable grounds” that chemical weapons had been used.
Green Cross International (GCI) condemns the use of any weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, or biological – as well as inhumane and indiscriminate weapons such as land mines and cluster bombs in warfare and urges all warring parties to refrain from any more use of chemical weapons. Green Cross also urges Syria, one of only seven countries not party to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), to join the regime and declare its chemical weapons stockpiles.
Dr. Paul Walker, director of GCI’s Environmental Security and Sustainability program, said Article I of the CWC prohibits the “development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer and use of chemical weapons” (CWC Preamble) and requires that each State Party “never, under any circumstances…to engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons…to destroy all chemical weapons it owns or possesses…[and] not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.”
“189 countries have now joined the international ban on chemical weapons, leaving only Syria and six other countries, including both Israel and Egypt, outside the legal, multilateral regime. It’s time now, sixteen years after the CWC’s entry into force in 1997, that these few remaining holdout countries join the global rule of law against a whole class of deadly, inhumane, and indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction,” Walker said.
The UN team continues to build the case, alongside recent reports by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Israel that outlawed chemical weapons have been used in the Syrian civil war. While there appears little conclusive proof which side has used these agents, the UN report stated that most eyewitness and victim testimony related to use by the Syrian military.
GCI, founded in 1993 by President Mikhail Gorbachev, is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization working to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation through advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva and has a network of national organizations in around 30 countries.