The United States welcomes the submission of the report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We are reviewing its findings very carefully. The report confirms that the Syrian regime is responsible for the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria. Such use is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2118, a violation of Syria’s obligations as a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and a violation of well-established international standards and norms against chemical weapons use. The report also found that ISIL was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The JIM has been working to determine attribution for nine cases of confirmed chemical weapons use in Syria. The report reflects the JIM’s final determination for three, concluding in one case the use of mustard gas by ISIL, and in two cases the use of modified industrial chlorine by the Syrian regime. We expect the JIM to continue its investigation into the remaining confirmed cases, as well as any other confirmed chemical weapons uses referred to the JIM by the OPCW Fact Finding Mission.
Importantly, an independent team of international experts has now confirmed a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime that mirrors numerous other confirmed cases of chemical weapons use across Syria, and countless other allegations of such use, including as recently as several weeks ago. This horrific and continuous use of chemical weapons by Syria represents the greatest challenge to the legitimacy of the CWC since it entered into force, and an affront to a century’s worth of efforts to create and enforce an international norm against the use of chemical weapons.
The world has rejected the use of chemical weapons as a barbaric tool, repugnant to the conscience of mankind. In April of last year, members of the Security Council met with Dr. Mohamed Tennari, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent-affiliated physician who dealt with a chlorine attack in March 2015 in the town of Sarmin. He played for the Council the video of his team’s attempt to resuscitate children after the gruesome attack. Members of the Security Council cannot claim ignorance of the devastating, inhumane effects of these weapons.
Three years after the horrendous chemical weapons attack in the opposition held town of Ghouta, the international community must act to hold accountable those who act in defiance of such fundamental international norms. When anyone – from any government or from any terrorist group – so flagrantly violates the global ban on chemical weapons use without consequences, it sends the signal that impunity reigns and it gravely weakens the counter-proliferation regime from which all of us benefit.
It is essential that the members of the Security Council come together to ensure consequences for those who have used chemical weapons in Syria. It is essential that all state and non-state actors immediately cease any chemical weapons use. We strongly urge all States to support strong and swift action by the Security Council.