hands the group's report on Syrian gas to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The investigators were not mandated to determine who launched the attack and their report does not include speculation in that regard. However, they identified the surface-to-surface rockets used to deliver the chemicals, their launching systems and their trajectories. Those findings strongly implicate the military forces of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad in the attacks. They also did not specify the exact number of fatalities. The Obama administration has said 1,429 were killed. Stated the report:
The environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used ... in the Ghouta area of Damascus.'Below the fold, you can read more.
The conclusion is that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic ... against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale.
Here's U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the report:
The team interviewed more than 50 survivors, medical personnel and first responders. It applied a rigorous and objective selection process designed to identify survivors who may have been exposed to chemical agents. It assessed these individuals’ symptoms and collected biomedical samples, including from hair, urine and blood.He said he has asked the chemical weapons inspectors to return to Syria "as soon as we have an agreement with the Syrian government."
The Mission also documented and sampled impact sites and munitions, and collected 30 soil and environmental samples – far more than any previous such United Nations investigation.
This is a war crime, and grave violation. [...] This is the most significant use of chemical weapons against civilians" since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988 [...]
It is for others to decide whether to pursue this matter further to determine responsibility. It was a grave crime and those responsible must be brought to justice as soon as possible.
While the focus is now on working out the sticky details of that arrangement agreed to by President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin to put Syria's chemical weapons under international supervision until they are safely destroyed, Ban Ki-moon reminded the world of broader issues in the Syrian conflict:
We should not lose sight of the broader perspective of the Syrian crisis. The terrible loss of life on 21 August was the result of one of many attacks that have collectively killed more than 100,000 people in Syria during the past two and a half years.The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has registered more than two million Syrian exiles in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, more than half of them children.
The UN Commission of Inquiry has reported that Government and pro-government forces have committed murder, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, rape and torture against civilians. It has also reported that anti-government armed groups have committed murder, executions, torture and hostage-taking. There has been indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighbourhoods by all sides. Yet arms continue to flow to the country and the region. [...]
The humanitarian situation is desperate. Food supplies are dangerously low in some places. We lack access to many people in need. People are living under siege. Families face intolerable choices between the risk of remaining in place and the risk of taking flight. Communities that once lived in relative harmony are now torn with sectarian tension. One third of the country’s people have fled their homes -- the largest flows of refugees and internally displaced persons in many years, causing instability across the region.