Syrian chemical weapons allegations "exceptionally grave," investigation essential: Pillay

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Navi Pillay

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has strongly condemned the reported killing of hundreds of civilians – including many women and children — in the Damascus suburbs, and said the allegations that many deaths were the result of the use of chemical weapons must be investigated "as a matter of utmost urgency."

Pillay said "The Secretary-General's team, headed by Dr. Sellstrom, is currently in Syria," and she urged "the Government and opposition forces to enable them to examine the site of the alleged attacks without any delay or obfuscation".

The High commissioner said "the use of chemical weapons is prohibited under customary international law", noting that "this absolute prohibition applies in all circumstances, including armed conflict". She said "As a norm of customary international law, it is binding on the Government despite it not being party to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. It is also binding on anti-Government armed groups."

Pillay said "These allegations are exceptionally grave and need to be comprehensively proved or disproved as soon as is humanly possible". She added that "Whether or not chemical weapons were in fact used, it seems that once again in Syria many civilians have been killed in flagrant contravention of international law".

She called "on all parties to halt the fighting immediately and allow access to humanitarian aid and essential medical supplies, in order to prevent more needless deaths".

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’16″

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