It’s been eight years since the Assad regime attacked its own citizens in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta with the chemical nerve agent sarin killing more than 1,400 Syrians, hundreds of them children. Thousands more people were injured. It was not the first or, tragically, the last time the regime would target its citizens with chemical weapons, but the horrific scope of the attack on Ghouta shocked the world.
The next month, following engagement by the international community, the Syrian government acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, admitted to possessing a chemical weapons program, and pledged to eliminate its stockpile and to cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, in its oversight and investigative mission.
But the Assad regime has failed to live up to its promises. Even after the elimination of Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile, the Syrian regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons against its own people, and, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at a recent UN Security Council briefing, it has tried to avoid accountability by obstructing independent investigations and failing to cooperate with the OPCW.
The United States firmly supports the impartial and independent work of the OPCW and its investigative bodies. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield pointed out that the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team has attributed four separate chemical weapons attacks in Syria to the Assad regime. These incidents are in addition to the four chemical weapons attacks previously attributed to the Assad regime by the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield noted that the Assad regime’s allies, including Russia, “have also actively sought to block all efforts to promote accountability. ”Russia’s role in enabling the Assad regime “is dangerous,” she said. “Repeated and continued failures by the Assad regime to comply with the obligations under international law must not be tolerated.”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield noted that the Security Council decided, in the event of non-compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2118, which, among other things, prohibited the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, to impose measures under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter. “We now have overwhelming evidence of numerous incidences of non-compliance by the Assad regime,” she declared. “Now is the time to uphold and enforce this Council’s decision. Without accountability for the atrocities committed against the Syrian people, lasting peace in Syria will remain out of reach.”