Use of chemical weapons in Syria – Switzerland's position

Press release, 03.11.2017

Switzerland takes note of the latest report by the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which examines responsibility for two instances of chemical weapons use in the context of the Syria conflict. Switzerland condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons and calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to refrain from using chemical weapons and to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

In a report submitted to the UN Security Council on 26 October 2017 and released yesterday, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism investigated two cases of chemical weapons use. It identified the perpetrators – the group calling itself ‘Islamic State’ for the use of mustard gas in Umm Hawsh in September 2016 and the Syrian Arab Republic for the use of sarin gas in Khan Shaykhun in April 2017. The investigations were conducted in part thanks to technical support from Switzerland.

Switzerland condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in Syria. All parties to the conflict are prohibited from such use at all times and under all circumstances. International law requires all states to bring those responsible to account before a criminal court.

Switzerland reiterates its call to the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria unreservedly to the International Criminal Court so that this body can investigate such and other serious violations of international humanitarian law by all conflict parties. It calls on the Security Council to explore any further action that could stem the prevailing culture of impunity for the most serious crimes and ensure the civilian population and other victims of war are protected.

Establishing the facts is of crucial importance in preventing new attacks and ensuring that serious crimes of this nature do not go unpunished. Switzerland hopes that the Security Council will come to an agreement on extending the mandate of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism. Bearing in mind the various alleged incidents involving chemical weapons, it believes that further investigations are necessary. 

Switzerland will continue to provide humanitarian aid in Syria and neighbouring countries which have taken in the majority of those displaced. In addition, it will continue to offer its good offices and support the UN Special Envoy for Syria in facilitating a lasting peace in that country. Switzerland believes that this conflict can only be resolved by political means.

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