‘War crime’: U.N. finds sarin used in Syria chemical weapons attack
The United Nations team investigating a chemical weapons attack last month in Syria has found that sarin was used.
“In particular, the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah and Amalaka in the Ghouta area of Damascus,” a 38-page report says.
Chemical weapons “were used on a relatively large scale,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a briefing to the U.N. Security Council.
It’s “the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988,” Ban said.
“This is a war crime and a grave violation of the 1925 Protocol and other rules of customary international law. I trust all can join me in condemning this despicable crime. The international community has a responsibility to hold the perpetrators accountable and to ensure that chemical weapons never re-emerge as an instrument of warfare.”
The U.N. team’s mandate did not include assigning blame for the attack. Ban would not speculate on who may be responsible.
Gary Quinlan, Australia’s U.N. ambassador, who is currently serving as president of the Security Council, said the report bolsters his country’s stance. It “confirms, in our view, that there is no remaining doubt that it was the regime that used chemical weapons.”
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., also said a preliminary review of the report shows it supports the U.S. position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was responsible.
“The regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin,” she said.
And, Power said, “it defies logic” to think members of the opposition would have infiltrated a regime-controlled area to fire on opposition-controlled areas.
But Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, maintained Russia’s stance that Syrian rebels might be to blame, as the Syrian regime claims.
Such suggestions “cannot be simply shrugged off,” Churkin said.
And statements insisting that the opposition could not have launched the attack “are not as scientific and grounded in reality as the actual situation could be.”
He questioned why rebel forces didn’t report major losses in the chemical attack.
Hundreds of people were killed, perhaps as many as 1,400, according to U.S. figures. Many were identified as civilians.
Britain, France, and NATO have also said al-Assad’s regime was behind the attack. Human Rights Watch said al-Assad’s forces “were almost certainly responsible.”
The U.N. mission “adhered to the most stringent protocols available for such an investigation, including to ensure the chain of custody for all samples,” Ban said.
The team interviewed survivors and first responders, and collected hair, urine and blood samples.
The U.N. mission has not completed its investigation of other alleged uses of chemical weapons in Syria, Ban said.
But there’s no doubt chemical weapons were used in the attack last month, he said. “The United Nations Mission has now confirmed, unequivocally and objectively, that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.”
Josh Levs and Holly Yan | CNN