Commission of Inquiry:Chemical agents may have been used as weapons in Syria

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The UN mandated Commission of Inquiry on Syria says there is reasonable evidence to suggest that limited quantities of chemical weapons have been used in the conflict.

The commission says it has collated evidence from witnesses, refugees and medical staff on the alleged use of chemical weapons although it was still not possible to determine what type of chemical was used, how it was used or the perpetrator.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, the commission says the conflict in Syria has reached a new level of brutality with both government and rebel forces committing grave violations of human rights on the civilian population.

The commission says both sides of the conflict were systematically enforcing blockades on towns and villages trapping civilians in their homes by controlling the supply of food, water, medicine and electricity.

Mr Paulo Pinheiro is the Commission’s Chairperson.

"The government has in its possession a number of chemical weapons. The danger extends beyond the use of the weapons by the government to control of such weapons in the event of either fractured command or any of the affiliated forces gaining access. It's possible that anti government armed groups may access and use chemical weapons. This includes nerve agents, though there is no compelling evidence that these groups posses such weapons or their requisite delivery systems. It is an illusion that more weapons will tip the balance between the two factions. More weapons will only lead to more civilian deaths and wounded. States must bear in mind that transfer of arms to both sides should not occur when there is a clear risk that these arms will be used to commit violations of international law. The parties to the conflict must distinguish between the civilian population and the combatants. Communities perceived to support one side or the other should not be targeted on such ground." 

Mr Pinheiro says parties to the conflict are using dangerous rhetoric that inflames sectarian tensions and risks inciting mass, indiscriminate violence, particularly against vulnerable communities.

The commission further notes that sexual violence is a persistent feature of the conflict with many women and girls being forced to flee their homes for fear of being raped.

Patrick Maigua,  United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 2.21″

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