Syria censured at global chemical weapons watchdog

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Members of the global chemical weapons watchdog on Thursday censured Syria for violating its international obligations to declare and surrender banned toxic munitions, calling for a ban on transfers of chemicals to Damascus.

Members of the Organisation for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons in The Hague adopted a decision in response to Syria’s non-compliance and to counter the threat of proliferation of chemical weapons munitions “in Syria and beyond”.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has denied using chemical weapons against its opponents in the civil war, which broke out in March 2011 and has now largely settled into a stalemate.

Its Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Thursday.

A majority of members of the Conference of State Parties, the OPCW’s governing body, adopted the decision in a vote of 69 to 10, with 45 abstentions, the OPCW said.

“The continued possession and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Republic, and its failures to submit an accurate and complete declaration and to destroy all its undeclared chemical weapons and production facilities, have caused serious damage to the object and purpose of the Chemical Weapons Convention,” it said.

States parties condemned in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons by anyone, under any circumstances.”

The decision called for no “direct or indirect transfer to Syria of certain chemical precursors, dual-use chemical manufacturing facilities and equipment and related technology”.

It also called on states to provide support and cooperate with criminal investigations into the illegal use of chemical weapons in Syria.

In 2021, Syria was stripped of its voting rights at the OPCW due to ongoing violations of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.

The latest measure, which is the next step by OPCW members in condemnation of Syria, came in response it to failing to meet its obligations under the convention, including the alleged possession of banned toxic munitions discovered by OPCW inspectors.

Syria joined the OPCW in 2013, agreeing to give up its chemical weapons stockpile in its entirety an to abandon all production and storage facilities.

Repeated investigations by the United Nations and the OPCW’s special Investigation and Identification Team concluded that Syrian government forces used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs in attacks between 2015 and 2018 that investigators said killed or injured thousands.

Earlier on Thursday, Syrian rights groups launched a proposal to create a new tribunal to prosecute individuals suspected of illegal use of chemical weapons in Syria and elsewhere.