OPCW record shows 390 chemical attacks in Syria since 2014

UK envoy to chemical weapons watchdog says no other group but Assad regime could have carried out Douma attack
LONDON: More than 390 allegations of chemical weapon use in Syria have been recorded by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) since 2014, the British envoy to the group said Monday.
“The Syrian regime has an abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people,” said Peter Wilson, adding that the use of chemical weapons “has become an all-too-regular weapon of war in the Syrian conflict.”
The statement came during a OPCW Executive Council Meeting following joint weekend airstrikes by the U.S., U.K., and France on reported Assad regime chemical weapons facilities in Syria.
The strikes followed the Assad regime allegedly carrying out a chemical attack in Douma, Syria which killed 78 civilians and injured hundreds of others.
Wilson said the U.K. is clear about who is responsible for the atrocity.
“A significant body of information, including intelligence, indicates the Syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack,” he said.
“Open-source accounts allege a barrel bomb was used to deliver the chemicals, and a regime helicopter was seen above Douma on the evening of 7 April,” he added.
Wilson said “reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military officials coordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine in Douma on 7 April.”
“No other group could have carried out this attack.”
He underlined that the world has seen the “harrowing images of men, women and children lying dead with foam in their mouths” and “first-hand accounts from NGOs and aid workers have detailed burns to the eyes, suffocation and skin discoloration, with a chlorine-like odor surrounding the victims.”
– ‘Incomplete Syrian accounting’
“The World Health Organization has reported that 500 patients, seen by its partners in Syria, had symptoms consistent with chemical weapons exposure,” he added.
Pointing to some of the evidence known to the OPCW council, Wilson said: “The OPCW has recorded more than 390 allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria since the fact-finding mission was established in 2014.”
He said: “The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has found Syria responsible for using chemical weapons on four occasions between 2014-2017, including chlorine and sarin.
“Syria has not provided the OPCW with a complete account of its chemical weapons program. The director general reported just last month that Syria had not provided credible evidence to account for 22 serious issues. This includes quantities of agent Syria possessed, the type of agent, and the munitions used for delivery.
“Based on the persistent pattern of behavior, and the cumulative analysis of specific incidents, we assess it as highly likely that the Syrian regime has continued to use chemical weapons since the attack on Khan Sheikhoun a year ago,” Wilson added.
The British envoy also pointed out that “Russia has vetoed six chemical weapons-related resolutions since the start of 2017, including a veto just last week of a draft resolution that would have established an independent investigation into the attack on Douma.”
Wilson also slammed Russian claims that the attack on Douma was staged or faked and even that the U.K. was behind the attack. “That is ludicrous,” he said.
“This council heard similar false claims from Russia and from Syria last year. They questioned the credibility of the evidence of a chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun.”
“Russia’s activity have made further UN-sponsored action untenable,” he said.
– ‘War crime’
Wilson stressed that “Syria’s use of chemical weapons, which has exacerbated the human suffering in Syria, is a serious crime of international concern.”
“It is a breach of the customary international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons and amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity,” he said.
Wilson said hitting Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities “will significantly degrade the Syrian regime’s ability to research, develop and deploy chemical weapons.”
He added: “The lack of accountability for the Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack can only have reassured the Syrian regime that the international community was not serious in its stated commitment to uphold the norm against chemical weapons use, and to hold perpetrators to account.”
“This is shameful.”
“Failure to act to hold perpetrators to account will only risk further barbaric use of chemical weapons, in Syria and beyond,” Wilson said.–AA

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