The Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) strongly condemns the recent chemical gas attacks launched by Syrian forces in residential areas which has resulted in the dead of several civilians including children. The Federation also calls for urgent action to be taken to hold the ruling regime accountable for the continuous use of chemical weapons against its citizens which is a gross violation of international humanitarian laws and human rights instruments and may as well constitute crime against humanity.
According to recent reports, the Assad regime has resumed its systematic silent death attacks against innocent civilians through its use of chemical gas. Forces backed by the regime recently carried out new chemical gas barrel bomb attacks on civilians in Idlib province in northern Syria and conducted conventional airstrikes in the Eastern Ghouta territory on the outskirts of Damascus.
The White Helmets civil defense group in Syria has video footage evidence which suggests that two barrels containing chlorine gas were dropped from pro-regime helicopters in Idlib on the night of Sunday 4th February. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a charity that supports hospitals in Syria, also revealed that its doctors reported 11 patients with symptoms indicating the use of chlorine gas in Idlib province.
Government air and artillery strikes in Eastern Ghouta the opposition-held district of Damascus resulted in the death of at least 28 civilians. The deadliest raids hit a market in the town of Beit Sawa, killing 10 civilians including two children. Further reports equally shows the barbaric onslaught by Russian and Assad regime forces targeting mainly civilians and residential neighborhoods in Arbin which caused the death of nine civilians, two of them children and one local rescue worker. Nine more civilians died in strikes across the rest of the besieged region, and dozens more were wounded.
The Arab Federation for Human Rights is deeply appalled by the Syrian’s regimes systematic and continuous use of chemical weapons against its own people which is a direct violation of its obligations under international laws and human rights principles. The use of chlorine as a weapon is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) because if high concentrations of the chemical enters the lungs, it can lead to immediate death. This likewise violates the rights to life and security of person which are fundamental human rights common to all humans including the Syrian people.
Additionally, the regular and incessant attacks – air and artillery strikes – carried out by pro-regimes and Russian forces targeting residential and civilian neighborhoods is a gross violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Breaching of these laws constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity and perpetrators of such crimes should be prosecuted at international courts of justice.
AFHR strongly affirms that although Syria is a party to all these conventions and human rights treaties, it has failed on its obligations to adhere to them and its continuous use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians suggest it inflicts harm with impunity.
A joint team of experts from the United Nations and the Organizations for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigated and concluded two years ago that Syrian government forces had used chlorine as a weapon at least three times between 2014 and 2015. The committee of experts further asserted that government forces used the nerve agent Sarin in an attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017, killing more than 80 people.
All these casualties occurred after the Syrian government declared in 2013 that it would destroy its chemical weapons arsenal after hundreds of people died in a Sarin attack in Damascus.
The Arab Federation for Human Rights urgently calls on the UN Security Council and the international community to condemn these barbaric and cruel attacks by the Syrian regime and to take immediate action to hold the perpetrators accountable. They should be forwarded to the International Criminal Court to be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against the Syrian people. The Federation also urge the United Nations to work hard through its Syrian Dialogue held in Russia to provide urgent permanent solutions that will promote peace and sustainability to the Syrian population.
Arab Federation for Human Rights
Geneva, February 6th 2018