The Syrian government is likely responsible for the August 21 chemical weapon attacks, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text] Tuesday. HRW stated that the attack probably involved the use of sarin nerve gas, echoing a UN report [JURIST report] of the suspected use of sarin in Syria dating back to June. HRW also stated that it was probably the government, not rebel forces, which implemented the attack. HRW asserted:
The Syrian government has denied its responsibility for the attack, and has blamed opposition groups, but has presented no evidence to back up its claims. Based on the available evidence, Human Rights Watch finds that Syrian government forces were almost certainly responsible for the August 21 attacks, and that a weapons-grade nerve agent was delivered during the attack using specially designed rocket delivery systems.HRW said that it was difficult to establish a death toll from the attacks but reported that at least 3,600 persons were treated for symptoms consistent with neurotoxin exposure and at least 814 had died in the two regions attacked.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. On Monday UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the international community to help facilitate negotiations between warring parties in Syria. Earlier this week JURIST guest columnist Curtis Doebbler argued [JURIST op-ed] that the use of military force against Syria would constitute a violation of international law. Last week the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] approved a joint resolution [JURIST report] authorizing the limited use of force against Syria. Also last week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon questioned the legality [JURIST report] of the US plan to strike Syria.