Chlorine as a Chemical Weapon

As you may have read, usage of Chlorine as a chemical weapon was confirmed recently in the report of the UN Joint Investigative Mechanism. You will also have seen further unconfirmed press reports this week of civilian casualties from the use of chlorine barrel bombs in Aleppo.

Professor Alastair Hay (Leeds University), incoming Chair of the Chemical Weapons Advisory Group (CWAC), the UK committee that reports into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), wrote to the Times and the Guardian in the last couple of weeks sharing his concerns and calling for the UK Government to take action.

'We are extremely concerned about the continuing use of chlorine as a chemical weapon in Syria and the suffering it causes for an already traumatised people (see Assad used gas weapons, UN confirms; Times 26 August). Any use of chemical weapons, whatever the toxic chemical used, is illegal under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and international customary law. Some 192 countries have signed up to this Convention, including Syria.

'As with many chemical weapons attacks identifying the user is problematic because the perpetrator has invariably fled the scene. Collecting evidence in the middle of an active theatre of war is even more complicated. We therefore welcome the recent report of the UN investigation and the call by the United States that President Assad be held accountable by the Security Council.

'It must be emphasised by all signatories to the CWC that those using chlorine to injure and kill are committing a crime and will be held to account.

'So, we call on the UK Government, the UN, and the international community to be resolute in their commitment to investigating both the use, and users, of chemical weapons in Syria and to prosecuting the perpetrators.'

With our charitable objective being to advance the science of applied chemistry and related sciences for the public benefit, we call on all our members to support this and reinforce that chemicals should be used to help mankind.

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