A United Nations team probing the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria has found “clear and convincing evidence” that Sarin gas was used in an incident that occurred on 21 August in the Ghouta area on the outskirts of Damascus in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed,reads a release from the UN media centre
“The report makes for chilling reading,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters following a closed-door briefing to the Security Council on the team’s work, which concludes that on the basis of evidence obtained during its investigation, “chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in [Syria], also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale.”
The team, led by Swedish scientist Dr. Åke Sellström, also concludes in particular that the environmental, chemical and medical samples collected provide “clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-air rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah, and Zamalka, in the Ghouta area of Damascus.”
Formally known as the Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, Dr. Sellström’s team was established by the Secretary-General on 21 March 2013 and was assisted by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
“The results are overwhelming and indisputable. The facts speak for themselves. The United Nations Mission has now confirmed, unequivocally and objectively, that chemical weapons have been used in Syria,” declared Mr. Ban, underscoring that 85 per cent of blood samples from the sites in Ghouta tested positive for Sarin, and the majority of the rocket fragments were also found to be carrying the deadly nerve agent.
“There must be accountability for the use of chemical weapons. Any use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, is a crime,’ said Mr. Ban, stressing: “But our message today must be more than: Do not slaughter your people with gas. There must also be no impunity for the crimes being committed with conventional weapons.”
“This is a war crime,” the Secretary-General said, stressing that the incident marked the most serious chemical weapons incident since Saddam Hussein’s attack on the Halabja region of Iraq, and the worst use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century.