Necessary, but sufficient? UN Security Council authorises new body to investigate chemical weapons in Syria

8 Aug, 2015 | Press Releases

Brussels, Rome – 8 August 2015

On 7 August 2015, the United Nations Security Council requested the UN Secretary-General to work with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to establish a Joint Investigative Mechanism to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, through UNSC Resolution 2235 (2015). This follows the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2118 on 27 September 2013, calling for the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons program and ongoing attacks in Syria to this day, despite an announcement by OPCW I 2014 that the most lethal chemical weapons stockpile declared by the Syrian regime had been destroyed.

Statement by Alison Smith, No Peace Without Justice Legal Counsel:

“This latest Security Council Resolution on Syria is certainly to be welcomed, as it keeps the spotlight on what is happening to ordinary Syrians every day, including a number of cases of indiscriminate use of chemical weapons against civilians. While this is a needed step to back the fight against impunity for Syria, No Peace Without Justice and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty believe that it is only one step that by itself is insufficient to assure justice.

“The Resolution sets up the Joint Investigative Mechanism to identify individuals, entities, groups, or governments involved in the use of chemicals as weapons. This is a necessary precursor to holding those individuals, entities, groups and governments accountable, as is stressed in the Resolution’s preamble. But it falls down on saying how that accountability is to be achieved. As NPWJ and the NRPTT have said many times before, the UN Security Council needs to provide leadership to the world in supporting accountability and justice in Syria – we’re afraid that this latest resolution still falls short in that respect.

“Furthermore, while agreeing that barrel bombs and chemical weapons are one of the greatest threats in today’s Syria, we have to remember that there has been five years of bloodshed going beyond these kinds of weapons. According to the UN, there is more than 220,000 estimated victims of gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian laws and human rights, which have been documented and denounced by independent NGOs and by the United Nations itself. These victims cannot be forgotten. All perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes must be held accountable to break the expectation and rewards of impunity in Syria’s war.

“Alongside the people of Syria, humanity is dying a little bit every day in Syria, under the barrel bombs dropped by regime helicopters, under the rubble of schools and hospitals indiscriminately targeted by various factions, among the starving people of besieged areas, where humanitarian convoys are not allowed to enter. Humanity dies every day while minorities are chased and hunted like animals. This cannot be forgotten and must be addressed.

“It is time for the United Nations Security Council to speak with one voice in taking all necessary measures to put in place a comprehensive and effective mechanism for investigation and legal action related to the Syrian crisis. We urge the Security Council to complement this by putting their efforts into stopping the fighting, giving relief to those who are still living in Syria and a chance to millions of refugees in neighbouring countries to return home. The future of an entire generation of Syrians and of Syria itself rely on this – we simply cannot afford to let them down again.”