UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] announced [remarks] on Thursday that the UN will initiate a probe into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Syrian government requested the probe [UN News Centre report] earlier this week after anti-government forces carried out an attack on a village near Aleppo. Ban declared that the investigation will involve other international bodies such as the World Health Organization and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [official websites]. In his remarks, Ban stated that any use of chemical weapons would be a serious crime and that the Syrian government has the primary responsibility of ensuring the security of chemical weapons. Ban said that the investigation would start as soon as possible.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has lasted for nearly two years, and the international community has become increasingly concerned about the violence. Last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused Syria's military [JURIST report] of using banned cluster bombs against civilians. Last month the UN said that both the Syrian government and anti-government rebels are committing war crimes [JURIST report]. Earlier in February UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reported [JURIST report] that the death toll resulting from two years of armed conflict in Syria is approaching 70,000. In January more than 50 countries asked the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria [JURIST report] to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. A study carried out by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported in January that the average number of deaths per month has increased significantly [JURIST report] since the summer of 2011, where the average was approximately 1,000 per month, to an average of 5,000 deaths per month since July 2012. A UN official said in November that a video posted on the Internet of Syrian rebels executing government soldiers who had surrendered may be evidence of war crimes [JURIST report]. In October, Pillay called on the international community to work to bring an end to the Syrian conflict [JURIST report].