Press statement on the alleged use of chemical weapons in eastern Ghouta
13 April 2018
Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
Geneva, 13 April 2018 – The Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic is gravely concerned by the continuing reports of use of chemical weapons in Syria. As of January 2018, we had reported on 34 documented incidents of the use of chemical weapons by various parties to the conflict.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of such weapons by any party to the conflict as this is strictly prohibited under international law including the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by 192 states including Syria. Perpetrators of such attacks must be identified and held accountable.
The Commission welcomes both the technical investigation about to be despatched by the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the commitment of the Syrian Arab Republic's representative at the United Nations Security Council that it will have full and unfettered access and freedom of movement in fulfilling its task.
We stress the imperative need to preserve evidence, and call upon all relevant authorities to ensure no party tampers with suspected sites, objects, witnesses, or victims before independent monitors and investigators are able to access the area.
We applaud the efforts of the Secretary General to persuade member States of the UN Security Council to establish a body to replace the Security-Council mandated UN–OPCW Joint Investigation Mechanism that can investigate and attribute responsibilities should the use of chemical weapons be verified by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission.
We also support calls for the Secretary General to use the authority given to him by the General Assembly and endorsed by the Security Council (in instances in which the use of chemical weapons has been alleged, and when member States bring such reports to his attention) to establish an investigation that can attribute such responsibilities.
We urge the Syrian authorities and all other parties to fully cooperate with all internationally mandated bodies, including this Commission, concerning access, the provision of security, and providing full and unfettered access and freedom of movement for investigators on the ground. We remain ready to assist in this and any other investigations into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Syria.
The Commission of Inquiry on Syria was established by the Human Rights Council in August 2011 to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law and allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Commission is also tasked to identify, where possible, those responsible for these violations with a view to ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable.
In line with Human Rights Council resolution 37/1 of 5 March 2018, the Commission will present the outcome of its comprehensive and independent inquiry into the recent events in eastern Ghouta at the Council’s thirty-eighth session in June.
The Commission comprises of Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Chair), Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd and Mr. Hanny Megally.