Recent news reports and witness accounts indicate that another chemical weapons attack has taken place this week in the Idlib Province of northern Syria. It would appear at this point that over 75 people have been killed and hundreds more injured.
Green Cross International condemns this inhumane and illegal attack, along with all prior attacks with chemical agents in Syria, and calls for an immediate halt to any such use of chemicals in warfare, as banned by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
Dr. Paul Walker, international director of Environmental Security and Sustainability at Green Cross International, has stated: “This latest attack, one of many such attacks with chemical agents in Syria since late 2012, is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and has already been widely condemned by many States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. We need to quickly identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable as war criminals in order to finally put a stop to the ongoing use of these inhumane, indiscriminate, and illegal weapons.”
While the Syrian government has denied any attack in the Idlib Province this week against rebel forces, witnesses have described the attack as taking place from aircraft and helicopters and victims exhibit the symptoms of nerve agents. The last major attack with nerve agents in Syria took place in August, 2013, when the Syrian air force attacked the Damascus eastern suburb of Ghouta, killing over 1,400 people, primarily innocent civilians, with sarin nerve agent.
The OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of on-site inspectors, along with the United Nations’ Joint Investigate Mechanism (JIM), have verified three chemical attacks with chlorine by the Syrian military in 2014 and 2015, and should be on-site in the Idlib Province this week to investigate these reports, collect forensic evidence, interview witnesses and surviving victims, and maintain control of samples for subsequent laboratory testing.
The Syrian Arab Republic, which joined the CWC in September 2013 under pressure from the United States, Russia, and other countries, declared a total chemical weapons stockpile of 1,308 tonnes. These weapons were removed from Syria, under OPCW inspectors’ auspices, by mid-2014 and permanently destroyed (on board the US ship, Cape Ray, and in four countries – the US, Germany, Finland, and the UK) by the end of 2015. If further investigation indicates that this attack was indeed by Syrian military forces, it will mark yet another violation by Syria of its obligations under the CWC and no doubt catalyze further condemnation by the world and possible other consequences.
Read the latest statements from the OPCW, here.
Paul Walker has made a number of statements on this issue to media in Australia, where he has been attending the 2017 World Congress on Public Health:
Sky TV Live: http://www.skynews.com.au/video/program/program_featured/2017/04/05/nerve-agent-used-in-syria-attack–walker.html
ABC PM: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2016/s4648757.htm