World Bulletin / News Desk
A UN-sponsored report to be published by the end of the month holds the Syrian regime and ISIL terror group responsible for chemical weapons attacks, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said Wednesday.
The report by the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations “establishes responsibilities”, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the UN, Alexis Lamek, told reporters earlier in the day.
Power said the report analyzed nine cases of chemical weapons use and “reflects the JIM’s final determination for three, concluding in one case the use of mustard gas by ISIL, and in two cases the use of modified industrial chlorine by the Syrian regime.”
The cases are “horrific” and “an affront to a century’s worth of efforts to create and enforce an international norm against the use of chemical weapons”, she said.
The Security Council is expected to consider the report Aug. 30, after which it will be made public, according to a statement by the UN.
The JIM was created last August as per UN Security Council resolution 2235 in response to reports of chemical attacks in Syria. It became fully operational last November and presented its first report in February.
“The JIM actually produced the report it was created for,” Lamek said. “It states clearly that the Syrian regime and ISIL have perpetuated chemical attacks in Syria.”
Asked whether the Security Council would take action against chemical weapons use, Lamek said he was hopeful. “I very much hope so, yes. Now, we have all the elements to act.”
Reports of chemical attacks on civilian populations and opposition fighters have continued to come out of Syria since an attack in August 2013 killed more than 1,400 victims in East Ghouta near Damascus.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights said it documented 139 chemical attacks in Syria since September 2013 when the Security Council issued resolution 2118 for the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.
“Some 136 attacks were carried out by the Syrian regime,” the London-based group said.
It added that ISIL had also carried out three chemical attacks in Syria since 2013. According to the rights group, approximately 88 victims had been killed in chemical attacks in Syria since 2013, including 45 opposition fighters and 36 civilians.
The group registered the highest number of chemical attacks in northern Idlib province, Rif Dimashq province and central Hama province.
The White House said in a statement that it condemns "in the strongest possible terms" the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons against its people, and said it would "work with our international partners to seek accountability through appropriate diplomatic mechanisms, including through the United Nations Security Council and the OPCW."
Regarding ISIL's use of chemical weapons, spokesman Ned Price said the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition "has placed a high priority on targeting ISIL’s chemical weapons capabilities," including the targeting of its chemical weapons experts.
"We continue to remove leaders from the battlefield with knowledge of these weapons and will target any related materials and attempts to manufacture such chemicals going forward," he said.
In August 2012, President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" for the U.S., indicating Washington would take military action against perpetrators of such an attack.
A year later, the U.S. changed course, choosing instead to negotiate with the Syrian government for the total elimination of its chemical arsenal, which was achieved in 2014.
Anadolu Agency, in 2014 and this week, published images of the Ghouta attack to raise awareness on the issue.
Anadolu Agency’s new video of the attack, depicting dead bodies of the women and children at the scene, also shows doctors trying to revive victims affected by the chemical gas attack.
Chemical attacks have been one aspect of an inhumane warfare spanning five years that has decimated Syria.
More than a quarter of a million people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced across the war-battered country, according to the UN, since the regime of Bashar al-Assad responded to peaceful protests in 2011 with military force, pushing the country into a vicious downward spiral of violence.
The Syrian Center for Policy Research puts the death toll from the six-year conflict at more than 470,000 victims.