UN investigators released a report [text, DOC] on Wednesday detailing the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces during an ongoing civil war, which has contributed to the displacement of more than one million civilians in six months.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic [official website] documented multiple war crimes by the Syrian government, including deliberately attacking protected objects, intentionally attacking medical personnel and using prohibited weapons.
Investigators stated that pro-government forces utilized chlorine weapons in a series of aerial and ground attacks in the Damascus suburb of Douma and the northwest city of Idlib in January and February. “In both incidents, victims and witnesses, including treating medical staff, described similar symptoms, including … respiratory distress, coughing, burning eyes, throat irritation and nausea.” Witnesses further recalled the smell of chlorine and other “household detergents.”
The attacks follow a pattern previously documented by the Commission concerning the use of chemical weapons by government forces in 2014, and the Commission concludes that, on these two occasions, government forces committed war crimes by “using prohibited weapons and launching indiscriminate attacks in civilian populated areas in Eastern Ghouta.
Investigators said that they were still reviewing a suspected chemical attack in Douma on April 7th that killed more than 49 people and wounded up to 650.
The continuing battles have directly led to the displacement of over one million civilians in six months, and after seven years of war, “more than 5.5 million refugees have fled the country and more than 6.5 million civilians live displaced inside the Syrian Arab Republic.”
The Commission proposes a pragmatic set of recommendations to all warring parties aimed at addressing the myriad issues affecting displaced civilians, including ensuring their housing, land and property rights.