News / Middle East

    UN, France Allege Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

    Karen Koning Abuzayd, member of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria for the United Nations Human Rights Council talks to commission chairperson Paulo Pinheiro before a news conference on the presentation of their latest report at the U.N.
    Karen Koning Abuzayd, member of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria for the United Nations Human Rights Council talks to commission chairperson Paulo Pinheiro before a news conference on the presentation of their latest report at the U.N.
    Margaret Besheer
    A United Nations report says there are “reasonable grounds” to believe a limited amount of chemical weapons have been used in Syria.
     
    Findings of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria were released Tuesday just hours ahead of a statement from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that his government is certain the chemical agent sarin has been used several times in that conflict-torn country.
     
    The commission's report says there is not enough evidence to determine which chemical agents have been used in Syria or who deployed them. For that to be established, it says, testing must be carried out on victims and from the site of the alleged attacks.
     
    Until now, the Syrian government has stalled U.N. investigators wanting to visit multiple sites of alleged chemical weapons attacks inside Syria, urging investigation of only one location where the government alleges opposition forces used chemical agents.
     
    In France, Fabius said his government has analyzed samples collected by two French journalists who spent several months reporting in Syria, and that the tests confirm the use of sarin gas — a potent chemical nerve agent.
     
    France’s U.N. Ambassador Gérard Araud said Paris gave the evidence to Åke Sellström, the man in charge of the U.N.’s chemical weapons investigation for Syria.

    • Smoke rises from a fire as a result of fighting in the the Syrian village of Quneitra near the border with Israel, as seen from an observatory near the Quneitra crossing, June 6, 2013.
    • Soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stand on a damaged street full of debris in Qusair, June 6, 2013.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC shows a poster of late Syrian President Hafez Assad on a garbage truck, in Aleppo, Syria, June 6, 2013.
    • Pro-government fighters and tanks in Qusair, after the Syrian army took control of the city from rebel fighters, June 5, 2013.
    • Homemade weapons left by Syrian rebels are pictured, after the army seized control of the city of Qusair and the surrounding region in Syria's central Homs province.
    • Syrian army soldiers with their weapons in the city of Qusair, June 5, 2013.
    • Supporters of Hezbollah distribute sweets as they celebrate after the Syrian army took control of Qusair with Hezbollah's support from rebel fighters, in the Shi'ite town of Hermel, Lebanon, June 5, 2013.
    • In Raqqa province, a boy lights candles for a sit-in in solidarity with those in Homs, June 4, 2013.
    • Syrian rebels prepare to fire locally made rockets in Idlib, northern Syria, June 4, 2013.
    • A handout picture released by the Shaam News Network shows rebel fighters manning an anti-aricraft gun near Hama, Syria, June 4, 2013.
    • Syrian refugee children attend class at a new school at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, near the border with Syria, June 4, 2013.

    “We have evidence of the use of sarin gas in Syria," he said. "We have evidence. We have transmitted the evidence to Mr. Sellström. We have samples which show that sarin gas has been used in Syria in a repeated and local way.”
     
    While the Commission of Inquiry report said it received allegations concerning the use of chemical weapons by both parties, it said the majority concern their use by Syrian government forces. The commission's chairman Paulo Pinheiro also stressed the human toll of the two-year conflict as he presented findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
     
    "Crimes that shock the conscience have become a daily reality," said Pinheiro. "Humanity has been the casualty of this war. Syria needs not a military surge, Syria needs a diplomatic surge. We cannot continue to sit idly by and watch this catastrophe unfold."
     
    Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters his government has credible evidence that chemical weapons have been used repeatedly by the government in small quantities.
     
    “We are deeply concerned and shocked by increasing evidence of use — limited use, but nonetheless use — and repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime in Syria," said Grant. "And we have brought it to the attention of the U.N. investigation and we will continue to bring incidents, allegations, evidence, as and when we get it to the attention of Mr. Sellström and his investigation team.”
     
    Grant added that his government has no evidence the opposition either possesses or has used chemical weapons.
     
    In addition to the findings that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, the commission also chronicled grave human rights violations including massacres, murder, torture, rape and forced displacement. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman said the U.N. chief found the “catalog of atrocities sickening and staggering,” and urged an accelerated diplomatic push to end the bloodshed.
     
    On Wednesday in Geneva, diplomats from the United States, Russia and the United Nations will meet to work on preparations for an international conference on Syria aimed at opening talks between representatives of the government and the opposition.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    June 05, 2013 2:44 AM
    The best thing that can happen soon is Bashar al Assad have the Hague after him for use of chemical weapons. Lets see Bashar face the world from Jail. At least he will rot in jail, instead of being killed right away.

    by: Prof. Kurt Muler from: Bonn Germany
    June 04, 2013 2:49 PM
    I have learned to trust completely in what Israel say... by far - the best intelligence and the best analysts...
    In Response

    by: C. Rock from: USA
    June 04, 2013 8:51 PM
    true that Professor... if Israel says it... you can take it to the bank. The only country in the world that told Bush that Sadam's WMD have been destroyed by them... but Bush placed his trust in "great" britain... we all know the rest...

    by: Cranksy from: USA
    June 04, 2013 1:26 PM
    The headline of this article could be misleading given VOA's American slant in the past on the Syrian conflict. The text of the article does use the words "who deployed them" though.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    June 05, 2013 2:47 AM
    It should entirely be blamed on Assad, because these are supposed to be secure, so he is the one responsible.

    by: Bill Henry from: Canada
    June 04, 2013 9:06 AM
    This conflict is a centuries old civil war that has never been resolved and has been kept alive in the hearts of men, generation after generation.

    No amount of talk from the UN or any sort of military intervention will serve to address the actual long standing issues at hand.

    Until the anger and hatred taught by fathers to sons is resolved, there will be no peace.

    by: Just Kyle from: Here
    June 04, 2013 9:00 AM
    Yes, the "conflict is becoming more horrific every day." Good thing that it only took the UN a month or two to reach that conclusion. At this rate, the UN might be ready to actually do something about it by 2015. This just proves that the United Nations is a total joke, a complete waste of time and money, and wholly ineffective at making any positive change in the world. Why does this organization even exist?
    In Response

    by: Steve from: Canada
    June 05, 2013 5:35 PM
    To protect isarel and to protect golan height for isarel which the world have not recognized as isarel territory yet UN protecting it for them... :s

    by: Jose79845 from: Texas
    June 04, 2013 8:03 AM
    As long as the United Nations maintains their war on marijuana users, how can anything the UN says be considered "reasonable?"

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora