Human Rights Watch Accuses Syrian Government of Using Chemical Weapons

New York, May 13 (QNA) – Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs embedded with cylinders of chlorine gas on three towns in Northern Syria in mid-April 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today on its website.

These attacks used an industrial chemical as a weapon, an act banned by the international treaty prohibiting chemical weapons that Syria joined in October 2013.

The Syrian government is the only party to the conflict with helicopters and other aircraft.

On April 29, the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced a new mission to establish facts surrounding allegations of use of chlorine in Syria. The group said the Syrian government has agreed to accept this mission and to provide security in areas under its control.

“Syria’s apparent use of chlorine gas as a weapon – not to mention targeting of civilians – is a plain violation of international law,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This is one more reason for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.”
Human Rights Watch interviews with 10 witnesses, including five medical personnel, video footage of the attacks, and photographs of the remnants strongly suggest that government forces dropped barrel bombs containing embedded chlorine gas cylinders in attacks from April 11 to 21 on three towns in northwestern Syria. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch they saw a helicopter dropping a barrel bomb or heard a helicopter immediately prior to an explosion, followed immediately by a peculiar odor. The witnesses consistently described the clinical signs and symptoms of exposure to a choking agent (also known as a lung or pulmonary agent) by victims.

According to doctors who treated the victims and subsequently spoke to Human Rights Watch, these attacks killed at least 11 people and resulted in symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine in nearly 500 other people.

Half of the people interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported that the explosion of the barrel bombs produced “yellow smoke” or “dark yellowish smoke” in addition to the usual smoke from bomb explosions. (QNA)

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