The Syrian regime used chemical weapons on at least four occasions this year, including in a sarin gas attack that left dozens of civilians dead, the UN unveiled in a report.
In a report on human rights violations in the Syrian conflict published on Wednesday, the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry said violence throughout the Syrian Arab Republic was maintained in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law principles, primarily affecting civilians, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Government forces continued the pattern of using chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas,” the UN-mandated report said.
Interviews and early warning reports showed a Sukhoi 22 (Su-22) aircraft had carried out four aerial attacks on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, the report concluded.
The IICI said only Syrian forces had access to these types of planes, which were used in three bombings and a chemical attack left at least 83 people dead, including 28 children, and injured 293 others.
“On the basis of samples obtained during autopsies and from individuals undergoing treatment in a neighboring country, those who undertook the fact-finding mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concluded that the victims had been exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance,” read the report.
Investigators were able to find pieces of the bomb used in the area that was hit, and though the IICI said it was unable to determine exactly what kind of weapon it was, the report insisted that the parts were consistent with sarin gas bombs produced by the Soviet Union.
The document also pointed to three other chemical attacks between March and July by the Syrian armed forces, several of which involved the use of chlorine gas.
The attack on Khan Sheikhoun, said the report, could thus be understood by the Commission as “constituting the war crimes of using chemical weapons and indiscriminate attacks in a civilian inhabited area”.
It also meant Syria had violated several international treaties on the use of chemical weapons and UN Security Council resolution 2118, passed in 2013, that gave the country until mid-2014 to destroy its chemical arsenal.