In the shadow of the Corona crisis, an important event took place in the halls of the UN recently that has been highly overlooked. The global chemical weapons watchdog (OPCW) released its highly anticipated first report, which explicitly charges Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out sarin and chlorine gas attacks on his own civilian population.
The 82-page report directly relates to a series of devastating sarin and chlorine attacks that took place in 2017 leaving 76 civilians dead in the Syrian village of al-Lataminah. First-hand eyewitness accounts have been disseminated on various social media platforms, including gory images of children suffering from the initial effects of the attack. Witnesses sharing their testimonies stated that helicopters belonging to the Syrian Army flew over the village and dropped barrels filled with chemical materials on populated areas. President Assad is reported as the first leader in history to use barrel bombs. This is the egregious strategy the Assad regime chose to use against his own people as a response to nationwide protests demanding civil rights.
The OPCW investigative team was formed in order to circumvent Syria’s closet ally, Russia. This is because Moscow has continued to utilize its veto power in different international forums in order to prevent investigations into chemical attacks allegedly carried out by Bashar al-Assad.
This is considered an historic report since it is the first time the UN has directly blamed Assad for the attacks in Syria. The report’s findings indicating that Assad committed war crimes are likely to be highly consequential for the Syrian dictator in the international community. Additionally, we may see increasing tension between the UN and Syria’s allies—Russia and Iran—who may accuse the international body of political bias.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of the report’s findings, stating that the chemical attacks perpetuated by the Assad regime constitute severe war crimes.
An additional report is expected to be published in the coming months documenting another attack that took place in the village of Douma in April 2018.
Hope for change in Syria
Bashar al-Assad has spent that last nine years waging a bloody war against opposition forces. More recently, Assad has successfully reconquered areas he had lost control over with the help of logistical and military aid from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
Syrian human rights activists are hopeful that as a result of the UN report, an in-depth investigation will be opened that will lead to the conclusion of Bashar al-Assad’s 20-year oppressive rule.