Human Rights Watch: Syria: Government Likely Culprit in Chemical Attack
Human Rights Watch
10 September 2013
(New York) – Available evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government forces were responsible for chemical weapons attacks on two Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. (…)
The 22-page report, “Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria,” documents two alleged chemical weapons attacks on the opposition-controlled suburbs of Eastern and Western Ghouta, located 16 kilometers apart, in the early hours of August 21. Human Rights Watch analyzed witness accounts of the rocket attacks, information on the likely source of the attacks, the physical remnants of the weapon systems used, and the medical symptoms exhibited by the victims as documented by medical staff.
The evidence concerning the type of rockets and launchers used in these attacks strongly suggests that these are weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch analyzed publicly posted YouTube videos from the attacked areas as well as higher-resolution images of weapon remnants provided by a local activist in Eastern Ghouta. (…)
The Syrian government has denied responsibility for the attacks and has blamed opposition groups, but has presented no credible evidence to back up its claims. Human Rights Watch and arms experts monitoring the use of weapons in Syria have not documented Syrian opposition forces to be in the possession of the 140mm and 330mm rockets used in the attack or their associated launchers.
While Human Rights Watch was unable to go to Ghouta to collect weapon remnants, environmental samples, and physiological samples to test for the chemical agent, it has sought technical advice from an expert on the detection and effects of chemical warfare agents. The expert reviewed accounts from local residents, the clinical signs and symptoms described by doctors, and many of the videos that were taken of the victims of the August 21 attacks.
Three doctors in Ghouta who treated the victims told Human Rights Watch that victims of the attacks consistently showed symptoms including suffocation; (…) None of the victims showed traumatic injuries normally associated with attacks using explosive or incendiary weapons.
Such symptoms, and the lack of traumatic injuries, are consistent with exposure to nerve agents such as Sarin, Human Rights Watch said. There is laboratory evidence that Sarin gas has been used in a previous attack in April on Jobar, near Damascus, when a photographer for Le Monde newspaper who was present at the time later tested for exposure to Sarin.
The use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Although Syria is not among the 189 countries that are party to the 1993 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, it is a party to the 1925 Geneva Gas Protocol. Customary international law bans the use of chemical weapons in all armed conflicts.
See full press release here.