MAPW Statement on Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria.
Sept 3rd 2013
MAPW holds that chemical weapons are inhumane, abhorrent and illegal. As such these weapons of mass destruction should never be used under any circumstances by any party, and one that can be shown to have done so should be held accountable through international law.
There is international law relating to this. The 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. Furthermore, the Chemical Weapons Convention 1993 outlaws the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer, or use of chemical weapons.
Syria is party only to the 1925 Geneva Protocol and not the CWC, but legal experts and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have pointed out that these agreements have created a principle against the use of chemical weapons through customary international law.
MAPW opposes military intervention in Syria.
We are deeply concerned about the hasty statements and preparations by the US, supported by our foreign minister and prime minister, to intervene with military action against the Assad regime. We are relieved that the UK parliament has voted against joining the US in any military action at this time.
Firstly, the UN investigation had not even started before these threats were made, and is not yet completed. It seems to be more about saving face for the US in light of president Obama’s statement that Chemical weapons use would be crossing a red line.
Secondly, the evidence for this being a deliberate top down directive of the regime has not been fully publicised, but appears to many observers to be incomplete and flimsy.
The similar decision to use force based on dodgy, manipulated intelligence about WMDs in Iraq should not be forgotten.
Thirdly, the proposed military intervention lacks a clear objective, is outside the UN decision making process, and will cause even more harm in a number of ways. It will cause collateral damage to civilians, increase violence and radicalisation of groups in the region, and push back the prospect of negotiation to end violence and establish an agreement for Syrian people to live in peace and return to their homes.
MAPW calls for the chemical weapons attacks to be dealt with by the United Nations in co-operation with the World Health Organisation in Geneva, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, and referred to the International Criminal Court.
UN Inspections should be allowed to continue, as called for by UN Secretary Ban-Ki Moon. That the US has instead tried to prevent further work by the inspectors is of great concern.
There must be a political process leading to ceasefire and negotiation for a peaceful settlement. The second round of talks was planned for later this year in Geneva and this should still be the pre-eminent goal of the international community through the UN. We urge our government to promote this strongly in it’s new role as chair of the UNSC.
MAPW again calls for a complete cessation of arms supplies to any parties in the Syrian civil war, as we did in our June statement. More arms will only contribute to more loss of life, injuries, community breakdown and strains on health services and refugee facilities.
An attack by the US, will fuel the fires of hatred and anger in the country, towards the West and punish its civilians further.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said,“To those providing weapons to either side, we must ask: what have those arms achieved but more bloodshed? The military logic has given us a country on the verge of total destruction, a region in chaos and a global threat. Why add more fuel to the fire?
In summary, MAPW condemns the proposed military action in Syria, and urges a careful and deliberate process of fact finding using international law structures and protocols, fully resourced, so that further chemical weapons attacks can be prevented, and perpetrators brought to account through nonviolent means.
Dr Jenny Grounds
President, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Australia.
September 3rd, 2013