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.

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Comment Sorting
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?"

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