By Peter Clifford                 ©              (


In a new report issued today, Wednesday, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, chaired by Paulo Pinheiro, going further than it has before, has said that chemical weapons used to kill hundreds of people in 2 incidents last year came from Syrian Army stockpiles.

Without categorically saying which side was to blame, investigators say in the report that, “The evidence available concerning the nature, quality and quantity of the agents used on 21 August indicated that the perpetrators likely had access to the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military, as well as the expertise and equipment necessary to manipulate safely large amount of chemical agents.”

Distressing Pictures of Victims of Gas Attack August 21st 2013

The August 21st incident occurred in Eastern Ghouta near the Syrian capital and simultaneously at several other Opposition-held areas causing the death of mostly civilians, including many women and children.

About another earlier incident on March 19th, which the Assad regime blamed on “terrorists”, the report says that “the chemical agents used in that attack bore the same unique hallmarks as those used in al-Ghouta.”

Ake Sellstrom, the United Nations’s chief investigator, who led a team of inspectors in Syria, said in January it was “difficult to see” how the Opposition could have weaponised the toxins used.

The same report also went on to accuse the Syrian Government of employing “siege warfare, instrumentalizing basic human needs for water, food, shelter and medical care as part of its military strategy,” forcing victims to choose between surrender and starvation – a “starvation until submission campaign.”

The Commission additionally noted the Syrian Government’s “widespread attacks on civilians, systematically committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance as crimes against humanity,” as well as recording abuses by Opposition groups, notably the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), particularly on the citizens of Raqqah where civilians were subjected to “severe physical or mental pain or suffering”.

The Commission has never gained direct access to Syria, relying on more than 2,600 interviews in the region and from Geneva, most of them conducted over Skype.

The Commissioners have also drawn up a confidential list of people and groups it believes should be held accountable and called on the UN Security Council to refer their reports to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague for prosecution.

On the disposal of chemical weapons front, with 3 deliveries expected at the port of Latakia by the end of this week, the Syrian regime will have disposed of around 35% of its chemical weapons stock, although the destruction programme is now well behind schedule.

Syria was to have shipped out all of the most dangerous Category 1 chemicals by December 31st 2013 and Category 2 chemicals by February 5th 2014, but is well behind target, now proposing a new date in April. All of the chemical weapons were meant to have been destroyed completely by the end of June 2014.

However, while an international fleet of ships waits offshore to transport and destroy the chemicals, the Syrian Government has apparently destroyed 93 percent of its stocks of isopropanol, used to make sarin nerve gas, a task that was supposed to have been 100% completed by March 1st. The remaining balance is “currently inaccessible for security reasons”.

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