April 29 marked the 25th anniversary of entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Because these weapons kill and maim indiscriminately causing horrible suffering, in 1997 the international community decided to ban the use of chemical weapons entirely..
“For a quarter of a century, the United States and other nations who share our commitment to a safer world have endeavored to rid the world of chemical weapons and deter their use by anyone, anywhere, and under any circumstances,” recently said Ambassador Richard Mills, Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations.
In recent years, however, the Convention has faced challenges, most shockingly in Syria. Facing international outcry after it repeatedly used chemical weapons against its own people – including innocent civilians – the Syrian regime agreed in 2013 to join the Convention, declare any chemical weapons it had, and destroy them. “We now know, unfortunately, that Syria’s declaration was incomplete,” said Ambassador Mills.
“Syria, as a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, agreed to never under any circumstances use chemical weapons. Yet, we uncontestably know from the independent reports … that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people on at least eight occasions since joining the Convention.”
The picture is even grimmer. More incidents are under investigation and the United States assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least 50 times since the conflict in Syria began.
“Syria is flouting its Chemical Weapons Convention obligations, the Assad regime in this chamber hurls preposterous accusations of bias at the OPCW’s [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] independent and professional experts in a failed effort to impugn them and distract from proven facts.”
To make matters worse, Russia “continues to peddle falsehoods in an effort to undermine the OPCW, repeatedly using its Security Council veto to shield Syria from accountability for its atrocities,” said Ambassador Mills.
Shortly after a number of attacks, Russian officials and Kremlin-controlled media have launched campaigns of disinformation, including on social media, to deflect the blame from the Syrian regime and to attempt to place blame elsewhere.
“The United States once again calls on Syria … to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention,” said Ambassador Mills.
“This includes stopping its obstruction of the work of the OPCW and fully declaring its chemical weapons stockpile and programs for destruction under international oversight,” he said.
“We also call on Russia to act responsibly and cease its efforts to undermine the Chemical Weapons Convention by protecting Syria from accountability for its inexcusable use of chemical weapons.”