Syria: UN resolution on chemical weapons a vital step towards justice for war crimes

A UN Security Council resolution passed today, paving the way for establishing an independent team of experts to identify the perpetrators of chlorine and other chemical weapon attacks, offers hope for accountability for war crimes in Syria, said Amnesty International.

“Chlorine and other chemical weapon attacks have brought death, anguish and terror to the civilian population in Syria. This resolution offers a much needed ray of hope in the darkness that presides over this conflict. If properly implemented, it could offer an opportunity to break the cycle of impunity for the countless war crimes being committed on a daily basis there,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

This resolution offers a much needed ray of hope in the darkness that presides over this conflict. If properly implemented, it could offer an opportunity to break the cycle of impunity for the countless war crimes being committed on a daily basis there
Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in chemical weapons attacks since the crisis in Syria began more than four years ago. The use of chemical weapons is prohibited by international humanitarian law.

The resolution details steps needed to create a Joint Investigative Mechanism to identify perpetrators of such attacks. It stipulates that all parties to the conflict would have an obligation to cooperate with it fully, including by granting full access to locations, individuals and relevant materials.

The fact that UN Security Council member states, including Russia which has blocked previous resolutions pushing for accountability in Syria, came together demonstrates how they can and should unite to help end the suffering of civilians in the Syrian catastrophe.

However, the resolution stops short of specifying how individuals should be held to account or how the terms of the resolution would be enforced in the event of non-compliance. Amnesty International is calling on the UN Security Council to expand on this resolution by referring the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Those killed and injured in chemical weapons attacks in Syria represent just a fraction of the casualties across the country since March 2011.

“The narrow scope of this resolution focuses only on one category of horrific crimes being
committed in Syria, when thousands more continue to suffer on a daily basis as a result
of other abuses including war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Said Boumedouha.