Syria was stripped of its voting rights at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on April 21, after recent findings evidenced the regime’s use of poisonous gas throughout the nation’s civil war. A two-thirds majority of nations voted to strip the Bashar Assad regime of its rights and privileges as a member of the organization, including the right to vote at OPCW conferences. The OPCW, monitoring body for the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, has 193 members, 87 of whom voted in favor of suspension of Syria’s rights. Out of the 136 countries participating in the Conference of State Parties where the vote was taken, 34 states abstained and 15 voted against, including Russia, Iran and Syria.
The OPCW is the leading global body tasked with overseeing the elimination of chemical weapons and ending their use in warfare. Repeated reports by the OPCW Investigation & Identification Team have revealed that Syrian regime forces have used nerve agents and chlorine, causing death and permanent injury. The most recent conclusive report was released April 12, and finds the Syrian government’s actions to be in clear contravention of the Convention’s provisions.
The vote to suspend Syria is a clear signal to the Assad regime that contraventions of the Convention will not be tolerated. While the decision has received the support of most signatories to the Convention and parties to the OPCW, Syria and its key military ally, Russia, condemned the decision and continue to deny any use of chemical weapons in the conflict. Dmitry Polyanskiy, first permanent representative of Russia to the UN, openly ccriticized the decision on Twitter, labeling it a “stunt” that hurts the credibility of the OPCW.
From Jurist, April 22. Used with permission.
Note: The April 12 report concerns a Feb. 4, 2018 chlorine attack on the village of Saraqib, in Idlib province, which affected at least 12 people. Saraqib was also the scene of chemical attacks in August 2016 and in March-April 2015. The Assad is believed to have carried out hundreds of chemical attacks since 2013.