Chemical weapons watchdog group to investigate attacks in Syria

[JURIST] The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) [official website] announced Tuesday that it would begin a fact-finding mission into allegations of the use of chlorine gas [press release] in Syria. Although both rebel forces and the Syrian government acknowledge that the chemical weapon was used [Al Jazeera report] on the Syrian town of Kafr Zita, both factions deny responsibility for the attack. Chlorine was not a chemical Syria was required to give up, but the use of chlorine gas is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention [text], to which Syria is a signatory. Some western governments believe that Syria has failed to declare all the chemical weapons in its possession, including chlorine gas, and has retained some of its chemical stockpile [Guardian report].

The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has persisted for over three years. The conflict has been highlighted by countless human rights violations including the use of chemical weaponry, which has created mounting pressure among the international community to find an end to the conflict. After initially failing to meet its deadline, Syria released a 100-day plan [JURIST report] in February to dispose of their chemical weapons. The plan was made pursuant to an agreement between the Syrian Foreign Ministry the UN and the OPCW to dispose of chemical weapons [JURIST report] within the country, made earlier that month. In December, the UN team investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria reported that it found credible evidence [JURIST report] that chemical weapons were used on numerous occasions throughout the civil war. The investigation was undertaken in response to allegations of large-scale sarin gas attacks [JURIST report on civilian-controlled areas. Some have argued that the gravity of the war crimes committed in Syria is sufficient to justify referral [JURIST op-ed] to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website].

 

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