Editorial: Syria chemical attack is unforgivable, a grave violation of human rights

April 8 , 2017

Growing evidence points to the fact that chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria, something that cannot be overlooked.

On April 4, an explosion occurred in the rebel-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwestern Syria, which has been mired in civil strife with the Assad government for six years. At least 80 people were killed and 350 people injured.

Video footage that appears to be of the town show children lying on the ground, unable to move and with constricted pupils, in severe convulsions and foaming at the mouth. It is an unbearable sight, too painful to watch. The victims seem to be exhibiting symptoms of exposure to chemical weapons, which is reprehensible.

The US asserted the attack was carried out by the Assad regime and subsequently launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat air base in retaliation. According to the Syrian National News Agency, severe damage had been inflicted on the airfield. US media reports claim that the warplanes used in the chemical attack were stationed at Shayrat.

This is the first time that the US has attacked Assad’s forces. We need to keep a close watch on how this will affect the future state of affairs in Syria.

Russia, which has been backing the Assad regime, has claimed that a government air strike hit a rebel depot full of chemical weapons, thereby releasing toxic gas. Thus the blame should be placed on the insurgents.

Though the claims of the US and those of the Assad regime are at odds with one other, we must also not forget that Syria is not a signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

In 2013, when a chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of people in Syria’s capital Damascus, the international community denounced the Syrian government, which then signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. Accordingly, they should have destroyed their weapons stockpile and any materials used in manufacturing chemical weapons by 2014, the following year. Why, then, are they still in use?

The Chemical Weapons Convention also prohibits possession of chemicals that can be weaponized. It is clear that Syria is in violation of the convention and that a framework for complying with the obligations of the convention should be included in the peace process currently underway between the Assad regime and the rebel groups.