Green Cross Condemns Ongoing Use of Chemical Weapons in Violation of International Law

UPDATE: Since the publication of this article, the OPCW released its report on their investigation of the Salisbury assassination attempt, the summary of which can be found here.

Geneva, 12 April, 2018 – This April marks the one-year anniversary of the Syrian attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun with sarin nerve agent, killing dozens of innocent civilians. It is also the one-month anniversary of the attempted assassination of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in Salisbury, UK with a “military-grade nerve agent.” Merely fourteen months ago, Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was also assassinated, with VX nerve agent in Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia.

Green Cross International (GCI), which has worked tirelessly for over two decades to help abolish chemical weapons across the globe, condemns these recent attacks with banned chemical agents and calls for full accountability for the perpetrators of these heinous acts.

The International Chemical Weapons Convention(CWC) banning the development, testing, production, stockpiling, use, and transfer of chemical agents and weapons, was opened for signature in January 1993, and entered into force in April 1997. Today it counts 192 member states, leaving only four countries – Egypt, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan – outside the convention. Declared chemical weapons stockpiles in seven of eight possessor states – Albania, India, Iraq, Libya, Russia, South Korea, and Syria – have all been verifiably destroyed over the past 21 years. The declared stockpile in the US has been 90% destroyed since 1990, with the remaining 10% – about 2,800 metric tons in two stockpiles in Colorado and Kentucky – scheduled for destruction within the next five years.

Dr Paul F. Walker, Director of Green Cross International’s Environmental Security and Sustainability (ESS) programme and leading advocate for the abolition of chemical weapons, stated: “It is both ironic and sad that the most universal and successful international arms control and disarmament agreement, the Chemical Weapons Convention, is now experiencing threats to its existence due to the use of banned chemical agents by Syria, North Korea, the Islamic State and – allegedly – Russia. The global norm banning chemical weapons must be upheld and all violators brought to justice.”

The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the CWC’s implementing and inspection agency in The Hague, has determined that chemical agents have been used at least five times in Syria. The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the United Nations has also determined that the Syrian government used both sarin and chlorine in these attacks, and that the Islamic State has used mustard as well. Other unofficial observers have asserted that chemical agents have been used since 2012 at least 200 times or more in the Syrian conflict.

Today, the OPCW held its 57th Meeting of the Executive Council, at the request of Russia, to discuss the March 4th assassination attempt in Salisbury, UK. Texts of today’s national statements can be found here.

Walker added: “We congratulate the strong calls from State Parties in recent OPCW meetings to uphold the global norm against chemical weapons, and we look forward to the forthcoming OPCW full report on the forensic evidence from the Salisbury attack. We welcome initiatives calling for the investigation of all attacks, for accountability for all perpetrators – both of state and non-state actors – who’ve undertaken illegal attacks such as those in Syria and the UK.” GCI is therefore encouraged by the latest French initiative, “International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons” and hopes it will make a strong contribution to this end.