The UN Security Council conducted emergency talks on Wednesday regarding an alleged chemical attack in Syria that killed numerous civilians. According to statement [press release] made by UN Secretary-General António Guterres Tuesday the UN is not currently in a position to independently verify if chemical weapons were used. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) [official website] has started gathering information [press release] to confirm if chemical weapons were used. The Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which works to investigate human rights abuses in Syria since 2011, has said it supports [press release] OPCW’s fact-finding mission. According Gueterres, the use of chemical weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security and it such weapons were used its a serious violation of international law.
The war in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] continues to have a devastating impact, particularly for the war torn region of Aleppo. In Feburary, according to HRW [advocacy site], the Syrian government conducted [JURIST report] “coordinated chemical attacks” on rebel controlled portions of Aleppo. The same month, more than 13,000 prisoners were hanged [JURIST report] in extrajudicial executions over a 5-year period at Saydnaya prison. In December the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] accused Syrian pro-government forces of going door to door and systematically killing civilians [JURIST report] in at least four Aleppo neighborhoods. The Russian/Syrian coalition committed war crimes in Aleppo during September and October, HRW said [JURIST report] in early December. Earlier that month UN officials urged [JURIST report] the international community to unite with the UN Security Council to protect civilians in the eastern Aleppo region. US Central Command concluded [JURIST report] in November that airstrikes carried out by the US-led coalition near Dayr az Zawr, Syria, in September did not violate international law. Also in November a group of German lawyers announced [JURIST report] the filing of charges against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, alleging that he committed war crimes in Aleppo.