Human Rights Issues

OPCW blames Syria for chemical attacks


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: OPCW

Mains level: Usual turmoil in Syria

The global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has for the first time explicitly blamed Syria for chemical attacks.

What did the report say?

  • President Bashar al-Assad’s air force used the nerve gas sarin and chlorine three times in 2017.
  • The findings came in the first report from a new investigative team set up by the OPCW to identify the perpetrators of attacks in Syria’s ongoing nine-year-long civil war.

About OPCW

  • The OPCW is an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on 29 April 1997.
  • The organisation is not an agency of the United Nations but cooperates both on policy and practical issues.
  • The OPCW, with its 193 member states, has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands, and oversees the global endeavour for the permanent and verifiable elimination of chemical weapons.
  • It promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction.
  • It won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for its work in Syria and says it has eliminated 97 per cent of the world’s chemical weapons.
  • The OPCW has the power to say whether chemical weapons were used in an attack it has investigated. In June 2018, it granted itself new powers to assign blame for attacks.

Back2Basics: Syrian Crisis

  • The Syrian civil war is an ongoing multi-sided civil war in Syria fought between the Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic led by Bashar al-Assad and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government.
  • Even before the conflict began, many Syrians were complaining about high unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom under Assad.
  • In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa, inspired by the “Arab Spring” in neighbouring countries.
  • When the government used deadly force to crush the dissent, protests demanding the president’s resignation erupted nationwide. The unrest spread and the crackdown intensified.
  • Opposition supporters took up arms, first to defend themselves and later to rid their areas of security forces. Assad vowed to crush what he called “foreign-backed terrorism”.
  • The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war.

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