The Blame Game Chemical Attack in Syria -By Rumana Akhter


After the chemical attack in Syria commentaries are surmounting over the real issue from different world leaders.  President Trump has a very obvious reaction which goes with his political agenda and international policies. In a press conference Trump has blamed Russia for this chemical attack and also pointed that the Putin backed government of Bashar al Assad must be accountable for this gas attack on civilians. In the same issue he has also call for an international pressure on Moscow to change its stand. From President Trump’s recent activities it is clear that he is no longer willing to have a warm relation with Russia. He also embraces NATO for their peace keeping operations in conflicting areas. He has quite different perspective about NATO and Russia now than during the election campaign.

Soon the Serine gas attack took place in Khan Sheikhoun – a Syrian town, the world leaders started series of blame trading. Just after a day Russia has given veto through a draft resolution of United Nations asking for speedy investigation forwarded by US, UK and France based on a claim of Syrian government that the catastrophe was just a result of an airstrike to the warehouse of the rebel group. Vladimir Putin found it totally unacceptable to make accusation to anyone without a fair, detail and unbiased investigation. There might be valid reason behind Putin’s claim; By June 2014 Syrian government removed the entire chemical weapon in its possession. And this was confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations (OPCW-UN).
“With this last movement, the total of declared chemical weapons material destroyed or removed from Syria has reached 100 per cent-,” stated by the Join Mission authority. Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the announcement and congratulated the Joint Mission. If all these report were wrote based on the field mission then either that reports were questionable or US current stand.

On 7th of April 2017 US airstrike destroyed 20% of Syrian’s operational state aircrafts—said CNN report. United States officially said around 58 to 59 missiles were launched and that hit the Syrian airbase and according to local and also the international media the attack made the airbase will be unoperational for long.  The spokesman of White House has been clear on president Trump’s intention. Trump is fighting ISIS. Not only Assad but any government who will make atrocities and kill innocent people has to be accountable and answerable.

Then the questions come who is fighting against whom in Syria. ISIS is fighting government; government is fighting against all the rebel groups including Hizb-ut-Tahrir and ISIS. U.S is against ISIS and the Syrian government; Russia is fighting against ISIS but backing Assad government. Where everyone and so many super power in working and acting to secure civilian’s rights; these civilians is dying every day in vein. Counting the very core rule of proportionality before any attack is now questionable. When the rebels welcome US’s attack on Syria sounds like it is no longer is to stopping atrocities but to winning the game. The real cost of this game of war carried by the civilians.

It is time to clarify that the use of chemical weapon is a war crime and also prohibited under, a large number of international treaties and international criminal law. And use of chemical weapon against civilian population is considered as crime against humanity. Despite Syria is not a party to International Criminal Court (ICC)-, Security Council authorizes the ICC which would lead to an investigation and prosecution of individuals for indiscriminate chemical attack.

Parties to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are explicitly obligated not only to respect their treaty obligations, but also to ensure respect for them. While the specific actions that satisfy this obligation are left unstated in the Conventions and Protocols, there is growing international consensus that States have a “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) their civilian populations and that other States must act affirmatively when a State is unwilling or unable to meet this responsibility. R2P may include the use of force, but may also involve measures, include targeted sanctions, international condemnation, diplomatic efforts, referral to the ICC, etc. Resort to force by one State on the territory of another, even for the .purpose of protecting a civilian population against war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, is unlawful in absence Security Council’s authorization, unless the question of  self-defense becomes prevalent. However, Trump has also blame the former US president Barack Obama for his improper, more specifically insufficient measure to save Syrian people.

War is the most devastating man made calamites. Rwanda’s mass killing in early 90s made international organizations think in two fold. First-, UN charter ensure a state’s sovereignty and save it from external aggression. Showing respect to the   sovereignty of a state, even mass atrocities in the major concern of the state; the international institution should arrange dialogue with the government intended to conclude to a diplomatic solution.   On the other hand ‘responsibility to protect’ allows intervening – protecting civilians while the government has manifestly failed to protect their citizens from atrocities and where diplomatic measures failed. However how far the diplomatic measures taken with Syrian government that’s a question of fact- surely none of the aforesaid international norms actually helping Syrian people on ground. There is not a single day when there is no incident of war devastation. Death is common and surviving is uncertain and living a normal life in a costly dream for Syrian people now. Where this blame game of the world leaders will finish is yet to see. This conflict which eventually escalate throughout the Europe and made million people internally and externally displaced might be the most horrified history of the century.

This is high time where the leaders should work together despite having a lot of political contentions. UN could be a more common platform for all to come under one umbrella and show proper respect for the Law of Armed Conflicts. Making tribunals and trying criminals is a lesson for them – but preventing atrocities is more important. Most importantly Syrian government should be more open to international solutions. And these solutions must come through United Nations, not by any particular state or some states.

The writer is Sr. Lecturer at the Department of Law and Human Rights, University of Development Alternative.

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