U.N. Inspector Calls for Justice in Syria Attacks

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 18, 2013 | Go to article overview

U.N. Inspector Calls for Justice in Syria Attacks


Byline: Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS -- The chief U.N. chemical weapons investigator in Syria says there should be a new investigation to determine who was responsible for chemical weapons attacks that killed hundreds in the conflict-wracked country.

Ake Sellstrom led a team that confirmed the use of chemical weapons in a major attack on Aug. 21 near Damascus, and their probable use in four other locations against civilians and soldiers. His team's mandate was to determine whether chemical weapons were used -- not to establish who was responsible.

He said in an interview with The Associated Press late Monday that if there is no accountability, "I will think it's sad."

Sellstrom said using chemical weapons is "a hideous crime ... so it's logical that this should be followed up and brought to court somehow, or brought to a tribunal, or brought to something."

He said his team gathered "lots of facts," but not enough to determine "the guilty party in this."

To determine who used chemical weapons, Sellstrom said, a much broader investigation is needed.

He told reporters last Friday that his team did not have the freedom of a police force in carrying out its investigation.

There are "a lot of other facts with the Syrian government, with the opposition, with several capitals," he told AP, citing possible information on transport of chemical weapons, on militias, and on conversations that may have been overheard and recorded as well as other intelligence. Key witnesses could also be found in Syria and at the sites of the attacks, he added.

"Someone must have given the order," Sellstrom said. "There must have been consequences somewhere -- and that we could be able to pick up if people are willing to give that information to (a) member state or to such an inquiry."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for accountability for the chemical weapons attacks when he addressed the General Assembly and the Security Council on Sellstrom's findings, saying the perpetrators of "gross violations" of international human rights and humanitarian law must be brought to justice.

When pressed Monday on how to get accountability, Ban noted that the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council is investigating alleged crimes against humanity in Syria and said he is consulting member states "on what kind of measures should be taken and when and how. …

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