Security Council approves probe into those responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria

The US Vessel Cape Ray, on which all 581 metric tonnes of a precursor chemical for sarin gas were removed from Syria and safely destroyed as the ship sailed in international waters in 2014. Photo: US Dept. of Transportation

7 August 2015 – The United Nations Security Council today gave the greenlight for the establishment of a Joint Investigative Mechanism to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body requested the UN Secretary-General, in coordination with the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to submit recommendations for the establishment of the Mechanism within 20 days. The Council will then respond to the recommendations within five days of receipt.

The Mechanism, established for a period of one year with a possibility of future extension, will be tasked with identifying “individuals, entities, groups, or governments involved in the use of chemicals as weapons, including chlorine or any other toxic chemical,” in Syria, according to the Council, which reiterated that those responsible must be held accountable.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the adoption of the resolution, noting that holding the perpetrators of the toxic chemical attacks accountable may hopefully alleviate the prolonged suffering of the Syrian people.

“He is pleased that the Security Council has decided to act and take the necessary action not just to halt the continued use of toxic chemicals as weapons by any party to the conflict, but also to send a strong collective message that any such use will not be tolerated,” said the statement.

The resolution stresses the obligation of the Syrian Government and all parties in the country to “cooperate fully” with the OPCW and the UN, including providing full access to all locations, individuals and materials in Syria relevant for the Joint Investigative Mechanism.

It also calls on all other States to cooperate fully, including providing any relevant information they may possess pertaining to those involved in use of chemicals as weapons in Syria.

In March 2015, the Council expressed deep concern that toxic chemicals, such as chlorine, had been used as a weapon in Syria – which was the conclusion with a “high degree of confidence” by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission – stressing that those who use such weapons must be held accountable.

The UN and the OPCW previously worked together to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities, a task they completed in October 2014.


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