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Human Rights Abuses in Syria including CW

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It is incontrovertible that human rights abuses against civilians in Syria have been perpetrated by both Assad and radical elements of the rebel forces.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 have said that war crimes have been committed by both sides over the last two years but the majority of incidents that have been reported to them have been by victims of gross violations of their human rights perpetrated by the Syrian government or their allied ‘ghost’ militias (Shabiha).

FIDH findings were that war crimes on both sides

Even as early as January this year, the Tunisan, Souhayr Belhassen, female President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) based in Paris has called for UN action to stop these human rights violations and to bring those responsible to justice via the International Criminal Court (ICC). FIDH, established over 90 years ago, is the peak international body for human rights with over 178 member organizations in 100 countries. FIDH has a consultative status before the United Nations. FIDH sends in fact finders into the affected areas, assists victims of human rights abuse by referring their cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, in the Netherlands or regional human rights courts and uses its influence to mobilize the international community to uphold the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She said ““Peace in Syria can only be effective if those most responsible for the most serious crimes -whatever their affiliation- face justice. The future of Syria can only be built on a strong fight against impunity” [1]

What has taken the world community so long to implement this sensible recommendation? Why has President Obama been selective or dismissive in his assessment of the UN and FIDH findings and recommendations? Moreover, why has the US Administration not mentioned, disregarded, or failed to give the same ‘red line’ ultimatums to the rebels in the light of highly probative independent findings in Turkey and Syria, that Al-Nusra Front (a significant player in the rebel opposition camp)have access to Sarin gas?

Turkish government/UN findings sarin gas in hands of some extremists within rebel forces

In May this year 12 Syrian militants from Al-Nusra were arrested in Isatmbul, and three southern provinces in Turkey on terrorism charges for possession of sarin gas cylinders. [2]

The latter report also suggested that the rebels had used chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal Northern Aleppo in March/April 2013 which killed at least 27 people. UN inspectors were apparently invited at the time to investigate. In a BBC article on 6 May 2013, “Testimony from victims of the conflict in Syria suggests rebels have used the nerve agent, sarin, a leading member of a UN commission of inquiry has said” [3]

Carla Del Ponte, prominent member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in relation to the March/April 2013 use of sarin gas said that the first use of chemical weapons in Syria that the Commission investigated, appeared to have been by the rebels:

“Our investigators have been interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals. According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. I was a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got … they were about the use of nerve gas by the opposition,”. … “Chemical weapons particularly nerving gas were used….used by opponents of the government, the rebels…we have no indication at all …that the Syrian government …have used chemical weapons…but special UN Commission need to investigate this

See Carla Del Ponte TV interviews wherein she says Sarin was used by rebels:



In a BBC article on 6 May 2013, “Testimony from victims of the conflict in Syria suggests rebels have used the nerve agent, sarin, a leading member of a UN commission of inquiry has said” [6] ]

Carla Del Ponte is a well-respected lawyer and was a former Swiss Attorney General, prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). She would not make such statements lightly. It certainly casts reasonable doubt on US claims that only Assad’s regime has access to and used chemical weapons.

Chemical Weapons

There are a vast array of chemical weapons. Some are lethal and others like ‘tear gas’ are not.

“Tear gas comes in many forms: pepper spray (OC gas), CS gas, CR gas, CN gas (phenacyl chloride), nonivamide, bromoacetone, xylyl bromide, syn-propanethial-S-oxide (from onions), and Mace (a branded mixture).Lachrymatory agents are commonly used for riot control. Their use as chemical warfare agents is prohibited by various international treaties.”[7]

Most lethal chemical weapons have been now banned by most members of the international community (however, biological, nuclear and radiological weapons have not yet received the same universal condemnation and treatment).

“The most dangerous of these are

  1. nerve agents are organo-phosphates such as Tabun (GA), Sarin (GB), Soman (GD), Cyclosarin (GF) and V-series of nerve agents (VX) [ note VX has the texture and feel of motor oil, causes violent contractions of the muscles and then death by asphyxiation) , and
  2. vesicant (blister) agents which are formulations of sulphur mustard such as H, HT, and HD.

All are liquids at normal room temperature, but become gaseous when released”[8]

These chemical weapons are unitary weapons which are lethal chemical munitions which produce a toxic result in their existing state without having to be mixed with other chemicals.

Nerve agents work by chemically blocking an enzyme in the nervous system thus disrupting the mechanism by which nerves transfer messages to organs.

“Poisoning by a nerve agent leads to contraction of pupils, profuse salivation, convulsions, involuntary urination and defecation, and eventual death by asphyxiation as control is lost over respiratory muscles. Some nerve agents are readily vaporized or aerosolized and the primary portal of entry into the body is the respiratory system. Nerve agents can also be absorbed through the skin, requiring that those likely to be subjected to such agents wear a full body suit in addition to a respirator…. Survivors of nerve agent poisoning almost invariably suffer chronic neurological damage. This neurological damage can also lead to continuing psychiatric effects.” [9]

The majority of the chemical weapon stockpiles are of the unitary type and most of it is stored in one-ton bulk containers.

These are to be contrasted to binary munitions such as the US developed M687 which contain two, unmixed and isolated chemicals (e.g. methylphosphonyl difluoride (DF ) and isopropyl alcohol and amine OPA) which do not react to produce Sarin’s lethal effects until mixed. This usually happens just prior to battlefield use.) [10]

“Even at very low concentrations, sarin can be fatal because it is 500 times more toxic than cyanide. Death may follow in one minute after direct ingestion of a lethal dose unless antidotes, typically atropine and pralidoxime, are quickly administered…A person’s clothing can release sarin for about 30 minutes after it has come in contact with sarin gas, which can lead to exposure of other people…. People who absorb a non-lethal dose but do not receive immediate appropriate medical treatment may suffer permanent neurological damage. Sarin degrades after a period of several weeks to several months.” Because Sarin (GB) decomposes quickly to form non-toxic Phophonic acid (especially in a high pH environment), it is usually used militarily in a binary weapon and not in its pure form. [11]

Sarin Gas (GB) was developed by the Germans the 30’s in preparation for WWII but not used until Iraq (at the time it was an ally of the US) against Iran and then its own Kurdish population in the 80’s. It was also used by a Japanese militant sect in the Tokyo metro system in 1995. It was used again in Syria in March/April and August 2013. However other gases were used by the Germans during the war to exterminate Jews, Slavs and other opponents of the Nazi regime, and by the Japanese in Manchuria. [12]

Once used, there are some countermeasures and medicines that can assist a victim which include:

  1. Atropine which is often loaded in an auto-injector/Mark 1 NAAK/ATNAA and once in the blood stream clears the lungs (this drug is a poison but is fast acting, and
  2. 2-PAM chloride, reactivates the poisoned enzyme (which is safer than atropine but takes longer to act). [13]

In 1989, after the use by Iraq of chemical weapons, the Australia Group (so called because it was an initiative of Australia) was formed by most OECD countries, European Commission, EU, Ukraine and Argentina. “These countries agree to maintain export controls on a uniform list of 54 compounds, including several that are not prohibited for export under the Chemical Weapons Convention, but can be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons” [14]

1993: Convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their destruction (the ‘CWC’, or the ‘Convention’) aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction (WMD: see UN Resolution 687) by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties and the safe destruction of such WMD and declaring information to and allowing inspection by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW): [15]

In the 1990’s senior ranking al-Qaeda operative, Syrian born, Abu Musab Al Suri (aka known as Umar Abd al-Hakim and Mustafa Setmariam Nasar and Abu Rida al Suri) ran two of Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist training camps in Afghanistan including Khalden and the notorious Darunta camp, where he developed and experimented with chemical weapons. Detainees at Guantanamo such as al Malki and Saed Khatem confirmed that al Qaeda had a chemical weapons capability as early as 1995 and in fact ran a two week training course on chemical poisons at the Darunta camp. (Unclassified Guantanamo reports leaked by Wikileaks) [16] Commission Report Chapter 4 and Global Security referencing of the Department of Homeland Security assessment that there was as early as 1993 some confidence to high confidence that al-Qaeda sought or had WMD capability. [17]

Al Qaeda’s experiments with chemical weapons is well documented, even CNN published a story in 2002 which they claimed to have acquired documents in the bombed out ruins of the Darunta camp in Nangarhar Afghanistan showing chemical formulas for sarin and a series of mud and stone buildings, to chemical testing. Most revealing of all were videotapes showing al Qaeda experiments poisoning dogs with chemical weapons. CNN had the video tapes watched by experts such as John Gilbert (CW specialist Science Applications International Corp) and David Kay ( UN weapons inspector in Iraq) who said they were horrified to see that al Qaeda had CW capability. “David Kay said he was convinced “above a reasonable doubt” that the gas on the tape is a nerve agent, possibly an improvised nerve agent or possibly Sarin.” [18]

Abu Musab Al Suri is also associated with various Al Qaeda and Salafist insurgents in Syria including Jammat e Jihal al Suri. [19]

In 2007 Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi/Dr Ibrahim/Abu Dua carried out a chlorine gas attack in Iraq. [20]

It is most likely that Abu Musab Al Suri and the chemical weapons expertise he has is now under the umbrella of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (Syria) which has now operationally merged with Jabhat al-Nusra.

Syria has never been a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and so has been developing, producing and stockpiling chemical weapons containing Sarin gas, mustard gas and VX gas for decades. However, they are a signatory to the 1925 Geneva Protocol(to the Hague Convention) for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare which has been ratified and is part of Syrian law. [21]

In any case, under customary international humanitarian law, the use of chemical is prohibited and is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 1998 in so far as international conflicts are concerned and is arguably relevant to civil wars (either directly as per Article 70 of the Lieber Instructions adopted in the American Civil War or by necessary implication that use of chemical weapons or any other weapons for that matter against civilians would be in breach of Article 8: 2) c) (i) and 2) e) (i) ). [22]

“Syria has an extensive chemical weapons program, and a variety of delivery methods: missiles, rockets, artillery shells, and air-dropped munitions. The country has been dependent on assistance in procuring important precursor chemicals and equipment from Russia, Egypt, West Germany, France, Iran, North Korea, and possibly other countries over a period of 20 years. Syria has been able to acquire an offensive chemical weapons capability that continues to be the regime’s strategic deterrent against Israel, and was rebuilding its chemical weapons capability in 2009, according to satellite images analysed by Jane’s Intelligence Review. Russia has delivered millions of protective masks to the Syrian military… The threat is clear and the consequences potentially a humanitarian disaster. Even if Syria’s chemical warfare agent production and storage facilities could be destroyed by air strikes, the downwind dispersal of the chemical agents or their combustion products could expose thousands of people to injury and death.” [23]

Conclusion and legal justification for justice

It is clear that it is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Syrian government alone has used chemical weapons on civilians in Syria during the civil war (at least to May 2013). [We are yet to see the report by the UN Chemical Weapons inspectors in relation to the despicable chemical attacks in Damascus on 21 August 2013 which killed 1,429 people, mainly civilians including hundreds of children]. Nevertheless it is indisputable that the Syrian Government has committed War Crimes quite independently of any alleged use of chemical weapons by virtue of their shelling civilians with artillery.

For example in the Houla Region North of the city of Homs on 25 May 2012, the Syrain Army’s artillery strike that killed at least 20 people is on its own conceivably a war crime if the attack was aimed at or recklessly indifferent to civilian casualties.

See Article 8 The Rome Statute section 2 c) “In the case of an armed conflict not of an international character, serious violations of article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, namely, any of the following acts committed against persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause: (i) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture”; and also Article 8 The Rome Statute section 2 e) “Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts: (i) Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities”.

As a result of the artillery barrage and the subsequent murders of another 88 civilians by the Ba’ath party (of which Bashar al-Assad is the Secretary General) militia the Shabiha, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned the Syrian government. On 28 and 29 May 12012, the U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Canada and five other nations jointly expelled Syrian ambassadors and diplomats from their territories….The Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr said the international response could include referrals to the International Criminal Court and imposing U.N. sanctions such as an arms embargo as well as financial and travel restrictions on identified individuals. In August 2012 UN investigators released a report which stated that it was likely that Syrian troops and Shabiha militia were responsible for the massacre. [24]

Furthermore actions by both the Syrian government and the rebels who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity can be targeted by nation states such as US, Britain or France using military sanctions proportionate to the responsibility to protect, , even without UN approval. According to Geoffrey Robertson QC, a prominent international criminal and human rights lawyer and judge who has argued landmark cases at the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and UN war crimes courts, said:

“The right to intervene, to stop a crime against humanity or deter a crime against humanity, has been with us for many centuries, and it predates the United Nations and it continued after the United Nations… long before the United Nations was created in 1945, Britain didn’t need world approval to attack foreign ports to stop the slave trade, or to lead a coalition to stop Ottoman Empire atrocities and liberate Greece…. NATO’s 1999 Kosovo bombing campaign halted ethnic cleansing of Albanians by Yugoslav forces but didn’t have Security Council authorization. The Independent International Commission on Kosovo later judged the campaign a “legitimate” use of military power”[25]

The Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on 23 August 2013 that “Any use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anybody, under any circumstances, would violate international law, (and would) would amount to a “crime against humanity”: [26]

“ It is the duty of every state to prosecute u=international crimes so as to prevent impunity for such crimes…. Regrettably, as it stands now, the only international crime explicitly related to chemical weapons which has been recognised by the international community is the war crime of the use of asphyxiating gas in international armed conflict. Given the nearly universal adherence to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, this limitation, which dates back to the 1925 Geneva Protocol, is outdated and needs to be addressed. Both the jurisprudence of the ICTY and the comprehensive study published by the International Committee of the Red Cross have concluded the customary international law prohibition, binding on all States, on the use of chemical weapons in international armed conflict (may) now extend to the use in non-international armed conflict as well.” [27]

Those individuals that have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including use of chemical weapons seem to be on BOTH sides of the Syrian Civil War and therefore those individuals guilt of war crimes should, as the UN and FIDH have found and recommended, be prosecuted in the ICC if the UN Security Council can agree or specialist ad hoc international tribunals (such as the Nuremburg, Rwanda and Former Yugoslavian Tribunals) forthwith. As there may be political resistance at the Security Council level to refer the Syrian government to the ICC (Syria not being a party to the Statute of the ICC) and given the fact that most of the accusations are against the current government of the Syrian Arab Republic the preferable course would be an ad hoc international war crimes tribunal, because its jurisdiction will have primacy over domestic Syrian courts. [28]

“the UN Security Council must refer the situation in Syria to the ICC to investigate all parties to the conflict for crimes against humanity. If those most responsible for the international crimes committed in Syria are not brought to justice, this will be a tacit endorsement for escalating massacres and other international crimes. Any efforts towards a lasting political solution in Syria would be futile without ensuring accountability and justice. FIDH also calls on the international community to impose targeted sanctions against those individuals in Syria who are deemed most responsible for violations of international law, until these individuals can be tried in court. As some countries call for a military intervention in Syria, FIDH reminds the international community that the protection of the Syrian people from further atrocities must be at the centre of any action in Syria. All States must strictly abide by international law, in particular international human rights, humanitarian and criminal law, and be held accountable in case of grave breaches of such standards.”[29]

(The last two Reports by the official UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria dated 5th February (Fourth Report) and 4th June 2013 (Fifth Report) respectively are highly critical of the Assad regime but document atrocities and human rights violation by both sides in the Syrian civil war. The 5th UN Report waters down Carla Del Ponte findings/assertions that there was no evidence of chemical attacks by Assad’s government up to 15th May 2013 “by both parties” but requires “further investigation and justice for the victims…there can be no peace in Syria without justice.”)

Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to the 23rd session of Human Rights Council 5th Report dated 4 June 2013 ( A/HRC/23/58 ) covers the period 15 January to 15 May 2013. The findings are based on 430 interviews and other collected evidence.          

“This report documents for the first time the systematic imposition of sieges, the use of chemical agents and forcible displacement. War crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations continue apace. Referral to justice remains paramount. … There are reasonable grounds to believe that chemical agents have been used as weapons. The precise agents, delivery systems or perpetrators could not be identified….136. As the conflict escalates, the potential for use of chemical weapons is of deepening concern. Chemical weapons include toxic chemicals, munitions, devices and related equipment as defined in the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and Their Destruction. Also applicable is the 1925 Geneva Protocol which Syria has ratified. The use of chemical weapons is prohibited in all circumstances under customary international humanitarian law and is a war crime under the Rome Statute…. 139… “

The 5th Report goes on to say that up to that point, the commission relied primarily on first-hand accounts to corroborate incidents, there were 4 previous chemical weapons attacks– on :

  1. Khan Al-Asal, Aleppo, on 19 March;
  2. Uteibah, Damascus, on 19 March;
  3. Sheikh Maqsood neighbourhood, Aleppo on 13 April, and
  4. Saraqib, Idlib, on 29 April.

– there are reasonable grounds to believe that limited quantities of toxic chemicals were used. It has not been possible, on the evidence available, to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator…. 140. Conclusive findings – particularly in the absence of a large-scale attack – may be reached only after testing samples taken directly from victims or the site of the alleged attack. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the Panel of Experts, led by Professor Sellström and assembled under the Secretary General’s Mechanism (SGM) for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (pursuant to Resolution 42/37c of 1987 and Security Council Resolution 620 of 1988), is granted full access to Syria…on 28 March 2013, the Commission reiterated its requests (made several times since October 2012) for access to investigate human rights abuse to the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic and no response was received.”[30]

The UN Security Council has not been able to achieve unanimity on a resolution to use lethal military force against the Syrian government (China and Russia are against the idea) [31]

However if a resolution calling for the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to go to trial under the auspices of the ICC or ad hoc tribunal, there may well be agreement.

Whatever, individual states may choose to do militarily, they should all agree to such a UN resolution in the face of so many UN Reports. [32]

If individual countries feel compelled to take military action without UN sanction, such strikes may be lawful if they are done to protect civilians from the perpetrators of those crimes at international law and not for an ulterior purpose.

Alexander Athos

4 September 2013

















[16] and






{Note: Article 8 of the Rome Statute War Crimes includes:

2 a)      Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, namely, any of the following acts against persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention, relevantly:

(i) wilful killing (ii) torture (iii) wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health (iv) Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly …(vii) Unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement

2 b)       Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts:

  1.             (i) Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities (ii) Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives…(iv) Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread…(v) Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives… (x) Killing or wounding treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army (xvii) Employing poison or poisoned weapons; (xviii) Employing asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials or devices…(xx) Employing weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering or which are inherently indiscriminate in violation of the international law of armed conflict, provided that such weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare are the subject of a comprehensive prohibition

2 c)      In the case of an armed conflict not of an international character, serious violations of article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, namely, any of the following acts committed against persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause:

2 e)      Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts:

  1. Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities;
  2. Intentionally directing attacks against buildings, material, medical units and transport, and personnel using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions in conformity with international law;

Note in relation to the Geneva Conventions, Protocols were added in 1977 and 2005 …

“They combine clear legal obligations and enshrine basic humanitarian principles.

• Soldiers who surrender or who are hors de combat are entitled to respect for their lives and their moral and physical integrity. It is forbidden to kill or injure them.

• The wounded and sick must be collected and cared for by the party to the conflict which has them in its power. Protection also covers medical personnel, establishments, transports and equipment. The emblem of the red cross, red crescent or red crystal is the sign of such protection and must be respected.

• Captured combatants are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, personal rights and convictions. They must be protected against all acts of violence and reprisals. They must have the right to correspond with their families and to receive relief.

• Civilians under the authority of a party to the conflict or an occupying power of which they are not nationals are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, personal rights and convictions.

• Everyone must be entitled to benefit from fundamental judicial guarantees. No one must be sentenced without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court. No one must be held responsible for an act he has not committed. No one must be subjected to physical or mental torture, corporal punishment or cruel or degrading treatment.

• Parties to a conflict and members of their armed forces do not have an unlimited choice of methods and means of warfare. It is prohibited to employ weapons or methods of warfare of a nature to cause unnecessary losses or excessive suffering.

• Parties to a conflict must at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants in order to spare civilian population and property. Adequate precautions shall be taken in this regard before launching an attack.” }




[25]; see too:


{Article 7 of Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court:

‘Crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as

part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population,

with knowledge of the attack:

national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender … or other grounds that are universally

recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act

referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court; … }

[27]      L. Tabassi and E. van der Borght Chemical Warfare as Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity HAGUE JUSTICE JOURNAL Vol 2 No 1 2007; pp20-21 and J. Henckaerts and L. Doswald-Beck, Customary International Humanitarian Law, Volume I: Rules, Cambridge University Press (2005), pp. 261-263.]





[32]      Notes on UN Reports:

Here is list of the five UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (IICI) Reports relating to Human Rights in Syria. All the IICI Reports were based on 1,630 interviews conducted and Photographs, video recordings, satellite imagery and medical records were collected, Reports from Governments and non-Government sources, academic analyses, and United Nations reports, including from human rights bodies and mechanisms and humanitarian organizations, also formed part of the investigation since the mandate began in September 2011 :

For the period March 2011 to January 2013:

1st Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic  23rd Nov 2011  A/HRC/S-17/2/Add.1

2nd Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic22nd Feb 2012  A/HRC/19/69 

3rd Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic16th Aug 2012  A/HRC/21/50 

4th Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic  5th Feb2012    A/HRC/22/59 

For the period January 2013 to 15 May 2013:

5th Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic 4th June            2013   A/HRC/23/58 

It is worth mentioning that in addition to the Chemical Weapons use discussed herein, there were 17 massacres recorded over the last fourth month period to May 2013 alone. Many of these massacres were by Government forces or associated militias. However others were committed by rebel extremists such as the Usud Al-Tawhid Brigades and Al-Nusra via their self-styled Sharia Courts (para 38 et seq of the 5th Report).

Here is a brief summary of the major UN reports and documents relating to Human Rights in Syria:

22nd Mar 2011A/HRC/16/G/12                      Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic  

28th Apr 2011  A/HRC/S-16/L.1                       Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

4th May 2011   A/HRC/RES/S-16/1      Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

18th Aug 2011  A/HRC/S-17/L.1                       Grave human rights violations in the Syrian Arab Republic

2nd Sept 2011   A/HRC/WG.6/12/SYR/1          National report Syrian Arab Republic

5th Sept 2011   A/HRC/WG.6/12/SYR/2          Compilation Syrian Arab Republic

15th Sept 2011A/HRC/18/53              Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

16th Sept 2011A/HRC/18/G/1                        Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic

23rd Nov 2011A/HRC/S-17/2/Add.1   1st Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic

30th Nov 2011  A/HRC/S-18/L.1                       Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

5th Dec 2011    A/HRC/RES/S-18/1      Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

24th Jan 2012   A/HRC/19/11              Report of Working Group

15th Feb 2012  A/HRC/19/G/2                        Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic

21st Feb 2012  A/RES/66/253             Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

22nd Feb 2012  A/HRC/19/69               2nd Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic

23rd Feb 2012A/HRC/19/NGO/82     Cairo Institute

22nd June 2012            A/HRC/20/37              Report of Secretary General

25th July 2012  A/67/181                     Report of Secretary General Human rights and unilateral      coercive measures

16th Aug 2012A/HRC/21/50               3rd Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic

25th Sept 2012A/HRC/21/32              Report of Secretary General

17th Oct 2012  A/HRC/RES/21/26       Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

18th Oct 2012  A/HRC/22/G/1                        Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic

11th Nov 2012  A/HRC/22/36              Report of Secretary General

15th Nov 2012  A/HRC/21/32/Corr.1   Report of Secretary General- Corrigendum

19th Nov 2012  A/HRC/20/37/Corr.1   Report of Secretary General- Corrigendum

5th February    A/HRC/22/59               4th Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic

12th February   A/RES/67/183             Report – Corrigendum

18th February   A/HRC/22/59/Corr.1   Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

22nd February  A/HRC/22/NGO/143   Statement by STP on human rights in the Syria

18th March      A/HRC/22/L.31                        Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

20th March      A/HRC/22/L.31/Rev.1Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

12th April         A/HRC/RES/22/24       Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic

23rd May          A/HRC/23/NGO/73     Cairo Institute

24th May          A/HRC/23/NGO/89     Cairo Institute

28th May          A/HRC/23/L.1              Killings in Al-Qusayr

29th May          A/HRC/RES/23/1         Killings in Al-Qusayr

4th June                        A/HRC/23/58              5th Report – IICI on the Syrian Arab Republic

11th June          A/HRC/23/L.29                        Deterioration Situation of human rights in the Syria

14th June          A/HRC/RES/23/26       Deterioration Situation of human rights in the Syria

28th August      A/HRC/24/NGO/15     Arab Women Foundation

Alexander Athos is a writer and businessman.He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (European History) Personal background Alexander was christened Orthodox brought up Catholic and now Evangelical Christian with an acceptance of the best in Christian tradition and a respect for genuine people of faith from other cultures. Political inclinations: Christian intellectual who has an eclectic predisposition to understanding global and national political and social trends and seeking to influence them for good by thoughtful and persuasive discourse.

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Turkey has just celebrated the victory of its presidential election amidst inflation and also just recovering from the earthquake that occurred some time ago. The vote advantage in this election certainly leaves many pros and cons for the figure of an authoritarian leader in the country that oversaw the Arab Spring revolution. President Erdogan managed to win with only about 52% of the vote based on the results of the incomplete official vote count. This is because almost half of the voters in the deeply divided country do not support Erdogan’s authoritarian vision for Turkey. But in other parts of the world, Erdogan is still a favorite and a role model as a Muslim leader who can lead and last. In essence, no politician or president is truly good and ideal, each has its vices and disgraces. It’s just that the standards of good and bad are judged by time and the needs of the times.

What Erdogan means to Turkey

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a very influential figure in the Turkish political landscape. He has been a prominent politician in Turkey for over two decades and has held various positions of power, including Mayor of Istanbul, Prime Minister, and now President of Turkey. Throughout his political career, Erdogan has been known for his conservative, nationalist, and Islamist political views.

Erdogan’s leadership has been praised by many for his ability to bring stability and economic growth to Turkey. During his tenure, Turkey has experienced significant economic development, and Erdogan has been credited with spearheading many of the country’s modernization efforts.

However, Erdogan’s leadership has also been criticized for its authoritarian tendencies, with many accusing him of eroding democratic institutions and muzzling opposition voices. In recent years, Turkey has been the subject of international scrutiny for its crackdown on dissent, including the imprisonment of journalists and human rights defenders. Erdogan’s role in Turkish politics is complex and controversial, with opinions on his legacy varying widely depending on one’s political beliefs and values.

A brief biography of the leader

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was born on February 26, 1954 in Rize, Turkey. Before entering politics, he worked as an imam and was active in Islamic organizations. In 1994, he was elected Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality of the newly established Justice and Development Party (AKP). In 2003, Erdogan was elected Prime Minister of Turkey and became President in 2014. During his tenure, he succeeded in bringing Turkey economic progress and gained widespread support from Turkey’s conservative and Islamist society. However, Erdogan’s leadership has also been criticized for being accused of restricting press freedom and curbing political opposition as well as being associated with human rights violations.

The strengths and weaknesses of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership in Turkish politics have always been a topic of debate among the public and politicians. Here are some examples of the strengths and weaknesses of Erdogan’s leadership:

Strengths of Erdogan’s Reign

Erdogan has managed to create economic stability in Turkey and attract foreign investment to his country.

He has succeeded in removing the ban on women wearing headscarves in Turkish state institutions.

Erdogan has strong support from conservative and Islamist circles in Turkey.

He has built adequate infrastructure in Turkey, such as fast railways and new airports.

Erdogan has successfully introduced education reforms and protected the rights of minorities.


Erdogan has been criticized for being authoritarian and suppressing political opposition, such as the arrest and detention of activists and journalists critical of his government.

He is also accused of restricting media and internet freedom in Turkey, such as shutting down media critical of him and suspecting people active on social media.

Erdogan has played a role in the conflict in Syria, which some say has caused security problems in Turkey.

He is in cahoots with conservatives and Islamists in Turkey and has taken no decisive action to push the country towards modernity.

Erdogan is considered unresponsive to humanitarian issues, such as failing to respond quickly to natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Turkey.

Erdogan in Turkish and Global View

The international community’s view of Recep Tayyip Erdogan varies. Some view him positively and appreciate his success in creating economic stability and modernizing infrastructure in Turkey, while others criticize him for being authoritarian and suppressing political opposition as well as limiting civil liberties and human rights.

Some of Erdogan’s controversial moves, such as granting mosque status back to Hagia Sophia and taking military action against Kurdish terrorists, have created pros and cons in international circles.

In addition, Turkey’s relations with neighboring countries are also sometimes not harmonious. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, has been involved in several conflicts and disputes with neighboring countries. Here are some of them:

1. Syria: Erdogan has been involved in the Syrian conflict, including supporting rebel groups fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime. Turkey’s relations with Syria are already not good, however, and Erdogan has also been criticized by some neighboring countries for perceived interference in Syria’s internal affairs.

2. Military Coup in Turkey and Relations with Greece: In 2016, an attempted coup was staged by followers of fethullah gulen in Turkey. Erdogan claimed that Fethullah Gulen fled to neighboring Greece and accused them of refusing to hand over Gulen to Turkey. This conflict caused relations between Turkey and Greece to deteriorate further.

3. Armenia and Azerbaijan border: Erdogan has supported Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that took place in 2020 and called for the withdrawal of Armenian soldiers from the region. This has worsened Turkey’s relations with Armenia and its relationship with Russia, which mediates the conflict.

4. Libyan conflict: Erdogan has given support to the UN-recognized Libyan government and has denounced the support of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt for giving support to different parties. This has worsened relations between Turkey and these countries.

Erdogan’s conflicts with leaders of neighboring countries have created tensions and worsened bilateral relations. Nevertheless, Turkey remains an important player in global geopolitics and Erdogan continues to be active in international relations including in the role of mediator in various regional and global conflicts.

However, Turkey remains an important country in global geopolitics, and Erdogan continues to be active in international relations, including in the role of mediator in various regional and global conflicts.

Turkey: Glance the Near Future

Following his election victory in 2023, Erdogan’s leadership in Turkey will enter a period that extends his rule after nearly 20 years in office. Here are some of the changes that can be seen in Erdogan’s leadership:

Extension of the term of government: With the victory, Erdogan extends his term as Turkey’s leader. This will allow him to implement a longer and more extensive political and economic agenda.

Consolidation of power: Erdogan’s election victory implies that he still receives strong political support from conservative and Islamist circles. This strengthens his position in allocating power and maintaining political control.

Economic Issues: Erdogan will be faced with the challenge of improving Turkey’s economic situation which still suffers from several problems such as inflation and budget deficit. Consolidation of political power may provide the stability needed for the implementation of economic policies.

Future of Foreign Relations: Erdogan needs to find ways to strengthen Turkey’s relations with several neighboring countries and international organizations. Appropriate foreign policy is needed to maintain stable regional and global relations.

Human rights and civil liberties: There are concerns about the suppression of political opposition, human rights and civil liberties in Turkey. Erdogan needs to take appropriate measures to improve this situation.

Erdogan’s victory in the 2023 election gives him strong political power to carry out the policies and programs of the Turkish government. However, the policies and actions he takes during his leadership will still be monitored and assessed by a number of national and international parties.

It is uncertain whether the future of Turkey will continue under Erdogan’s leadership in the economic atmosphere and post-recovery from natural disasters. But it is likely to be more complex.

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Middle East

Gulf support for Turkey’s Erdogan is about more than economics

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is received by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Feb. 14, 2022, in the UAE. - Twitter

When jailed Turkish politician Selahattin Demirtas apologized for his pro-Kurdish party’s poor performance in recent Turkish elections, he did more than take responsibility.

Mr. Demirtas implicitly questioned the notion that Turks vote primarily along ideological and identity lines rather than based on assessing which party will best further their economic and social interests. However, the reality is that all the above shape how Turks vote.

Mr. Demirtas’ Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), running under another party banner due to a potential ban over alleged militant ties, won 8.79 percent in last month’s parliamentary election compared to 11.7 per cent in 2018. Even so, it remains the third-largest party in parliament.

At first glance, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s economic performance suggested that Turks would choose change. Inflation hovers around 44 per cent; the Turkish lira has lost 90 per cent of its value over the last decade and hit a new low a day after Mr. Erdogan’s electoral victory.

In addition, many blame corruption and a failure to enforce building standards for the degree of devastation caused by earthquakes in February in eastern Turkey, parts of which are predominantly Kurdish.

Stunning as those statistics and allegations may be, they tell only part of the story.

Counterintuitively, Mr. Erdogan likely benefitted not only from skills that best come to the fore when he is in a political fight but also from his religiosity, religious lacing of politics, and promotion of greater freedom for public expressions of piety in a country that long sought to restrict them to the private sphere.

Conservative religious women were one major constituency that benefitted economically and socially from Mr. Erdogan’s rollback of Kemalist restrictions that barred women from wearing headscarves in government offices and universities.

“Erdogan is loved that much because he changed people’s lives,” said Ozlem Zengin, a female member of parliament for the president’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Similarly, religion may have been one reason voters in earthquake-hit areas favoured the AKP above Mr. Demirtas’ HDP.

Economist Jeanet Sinding Bentzen notes that “individuals become more religious if an earthquake recently hit close by. Even though the effect decreases after a while, data on children of immigrants reveal a persistent effect across generations.”

Economics in mind, some voters questioned whether opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu with his vow to reintegrate Turkey into the Western fold, would have been able to secure badly needed support from Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

After years of strained relations, Saudi and Emirati support for Mr. Erdogan was displayed within days of the Turkish leader’s electoral success.

The UAE ratified a five-year, US$40 billion trade deal with Turkey three days after the vote. ‘This deal marks a new era of cooperation in our long-standing friendship,” said UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani al-Zeyoudi.

Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s national oil company, met in Ankara with some 80 Turkish contractors this week to discuss US$50 billion worth of potential projects.

“Aramco wants to see as many Turkish contractors as possible in its projects. They are planning refinery, pipeline, management buildings, and other infrastructure construction that will be worth $50 billion in investment,” said Erdal Eren, head of the Turkish Contractors Association.

In a bow to foreign investors, including Gulf states that increasingly tie aid to recipients’ economic reform policies, Mr. Erdogan on Saturday named Mehmet Simsek, a widely respected former banker and deputy prime minister and finance minister, as his new treasury and finance minister.

Foreign investors and analysts saw the appointment of Mr. Simsek, an advocate of conventional economic policies, as a sign that Mr. Erdogan may shift away from his unorthodox refusal to raise interest rates that fueled inflation and an exodus of foreign money.

In addition to stabilizing the economy, Mr. Erdogan faces challenges funding reconstruction in earthquake-hit areas as well as northern Syria as part of an effort to facilitate the return of refugees.

With 3.7 million registered refugees, Turkey is home to the largest Syrian exile community. Anti-migrant sentiment and pledges to return refugees were important in last month’s election campaigns. Refugee return is also part of the Gulf states’ renewed engagement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In a twist of irony, Gulf support for Mr. Erdogan, despite his Islamist leanings, may be driven as much by economics as geopolitics.

At a time when the UAE and Saudi Arabia adopt positions at odds with the policies of the United States, the region’s security guarantor, they may see Mr. Erdogan as an increasingly important partner irrespective of whether the Gulf states’ moves constitute a genuine policy shift or merely a pressure tactic to persuade the US to be more attentive to their concerns.

Like the two Gulf states, Mr. Erdogan, despite Turkey’s NATO membership, has pursued an independent foreign policy involving close ties to Russia and a military intervention in Syria that impacts Gulf efforts to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran.

In its latest charting of an independent course, the UAE said it was pulling out of a US-led maritime security force, the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).

Led by a US admiral, the CMF groups 38 countries, including Saudi Arabia, in a bid to halt Iranian attacks on commercial ships, weapons smuggling, and piracy.

The UAE said its withdrawal was part of an assessment of “effective security cooperation” in the Middle East.

However, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Emirati counterpart, Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, did not mention a UAE withdrawal in a joint statement on Friday after talks in Washington.

“Sheikh Tahnoon praised the United States’ strong security and defense partnership with the UAE. Mr. Sullivan confirmed the US commitment to deterring threats against the UAE and other US partners while also working diplomatically to de-escalate conflicts and reduce tensions in the region,” the statement said.

Moreover, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will meet in Saudi Arabia this week with his Gulf Cooperation Council counterparts, including the UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan.

At the same time, various Iranian and other media quoted a Qatari news website, Al Jadid, saying that China was facilitating talks between the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Iran to create a joint naval force to enhance maritime security in the Gulf.

The report did not clarify whether China would play an active role in the force or whether participation would be limited to Middle Eastern states.

Iranian naval commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani discussed plans for a joint maritime force on local television but did not mention Chinese involvement.

In a first response, CMS and US Fifth Fleet spokesman Commander Tim Hawkins dismissed the notion of maritime forces that includes Iran. ““It defies reason that Iran, the number one cause of regional instability, claims it wants to form a naval security alliance to protect the very waters it threatens,” Mr. Hawkins said.

Nevertheless, the force, if created, could cast a different light on Emirati and Saudi efforts to boost Mr. Erdogan.

Taken together, the UAE’s alleged withdrawal from the US-led CMF, the creation of a China-associated alternative force, and support for Mr. Erdogan would signal a Gulf willingness to take greater responsibility for the region’s security.

It would also indicate a qualitative change in Chinese engagement in the Middle East following the China-mediated agreement in March between Saudi Arabia and Iran that restored diplomatic relations.

Turkey has been conspicuously absent in discussions about Gulf security even though it is a regional powerhouse with a battle-hardened military, an expanding homegrown defence industry, and regional ambitions. The UAE and Saudi Arabia account for 40 per cent of Turkish arms exports.

Turkey first proposed establishing a military base in Saudi Arabia in 2015, two years before the kingdom and the UAE initiated a 3.5-year-long diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar that was lifted in 2021. The Gulf states demanded, among others, that Qatar halt military cooperation with Turkey and shut down a Turkish military base populated by Turkish forces at the beginning of the boycott.

“If the current trend of US detachment from the region continues, and Turkey’s rising regional posture keeps moving in a forward direction, Ankara may have an opportunity to fortify its position in the Gulf,” said Middle East scholar Ali Bakir.

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Middle East

Wanted: A Democracy Assistance Strategy for Iran



At the second Summit for Democracy, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken underscored the importance of advancing gender equality and women’s participation worldwide, including by commending the brave women of Iran for fighting for “woman, life, and freedom.” Yet, the people of Iran continue to face brutal repression as the Islamic Republic kills, tortures, arrests and assaults Iranians who are fighting for basic rights.

Iran has seen a sharp rise in human rights violations over the past seven months, when protests erupted across the country—sparked by the death of Mahsa Zhina Amini, a young Kurdish Iranian who died in the custody of the morality police for an “improper hijab.” These protests have trained a spotlight on deep societal grievances fostered by over four decades of persecution, oppression and impunity which cannot be reversed by the regime’s crackdown. The Islamic Republic now faces a dire crisis of legitimacy.

Although the United States has taken some steps to support the democratic movement in Iran, including by expressing solidarity with the demonstrators, the time has come for a more active stance in supporting those risking their lives to promote change by helping opposition leaders and providing assistance to pro-democracy forces to enable them to advance peace and human rights in Iran. Working through the State Department, USAID and independent NGOs, the U.S. can draw on existing resources and experience on promoting peaceful, political transitions to help democratic activists articulate their vision of a democratic future.

To begin with, the U.S. government should amplify and support the opposition leaders in developing a united vision for Iran’s future. Momentum for change has found footing as opposition leaders collaborate to establish a new political identity that rests on the principles of democracy, secularism, and human rights. This has also taken shape in inclusion, which is a first step in enshrining the principles of human rights, inclusion and a secular democracy.

The U.S. should seize this opportunity to provide dialogue platforms for opposition leaders and activists inside Iran to work across divides to refine their strategy, key policy priorities and their vision for democratic transformation. This could also entail providing technical assistance to Iranian activists on issues of peace, democracy, and governance. International support for the opposition as a legitimate alternative to the regime could reinvigorate hope among the protestors in Iran, while helping activists become better organized around clear goals could maximize the chance of a democratic breakthrough.

The U.S. government should adopt a long-term strategy and start planning how to support a democratic Iran, in line with USAID’s emphasis on supporting “bright spots” and leveraging the momentum of democratic openings. Given that protest movements and political transitions alike sometimes stall or encounter barriers, the U.S. should maintain flexibility as it anticipates and supports a democratic breakthrough. Whether the regime falls in the next few months or years, the U.S. should be prepared to provide assistance that empowers the Iranian people to build a new democratic foundation. This could include assisting an interim government, preparing leaders to govern, supporting political party development, codifying inclusion in a legal framework, mitigating the impacts of spoilers and managing security sector reform.

In designing these plans for assistance, policymakers should take care to encourage an inclusive approach that recognizes the rights and priorities of youth, women, ethnic, religious, sexual, and racial minorities. Under the Islamic Republic, these groups currently face extreme forms of discrimination, persecution and violations of human rights. After decades of oppression, women and youth are at the forefront of the uprising today—the U.S. should amplify their messages and support the fight for women’s rights as part of its policy objectives.

Minimizing the risk of elite capture and maximizing public participation will be critical to unifying the Iranian opposition, as well as helping ensure that inclusion is featured in a long-term vision for democracy in the country. This should include  mitigating backlash from elite and dominant groups by educating and informing the public of the benefits of expanding political participation to include women and ethnic, religious, sexual, and racial minorities.

Advancing democracy and governance in any country is a long-term endeavor, and in Iran it would be no different. If the democratic movement in Iran were to succeed, it would represent an extraordinarily consequential event in the global fight for democracy. As President Biden has said, “We’re at an inflection point in history, where the decisions we make today are going to affect the course of our world for the next several decades.” Enabling the Iranian people to lead the way in defining the future of democracy in their country could impact the future for decades to come. The U.S. should stand on the right side of history.

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