A UN investigative panel is pressing the Assad regime to hand over the names of commanders, military units and other entities suspected of carrying out chemical attacks, according to a report released Friday.
The joint panel of the United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has concluded that the Assad regime forces were responsible for three chlorine bombings of villages in 2014 and 2015.
In its latest report to the Security Council, the panel said it had formally asked the Assad regime to provide details of air operations, specifically at two air bases from which helicopters carrying the chlorine bombs lifted off.
Investigators are seeking the “names of specific Syrian Arab Armed Forces units and any entity outside the Armed Forces” listed on flight plans, said the report by the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).
“Such information is of great importance, given that commanders are responsible for any assets under their control,” the report said.
In September 2016, a report by JIM identified two Syrian Air Force helicopter squadrons and two other military units as responsible for chlorine gas attacks on civilians.
According to a Western diplomat, the findings of the report were based on Western and regional intelligence. “It was the 22nd Division, the 63rd Brigade and the 255 and 253 squadrons of the Syrian government,” the diplomat said.
The identification of specific military institutions responsible for attacks could strengthen a push by some Western members of the UN Security Council for a robust response, focused on sanctions and accountability.
In December 2016, Britain and France pressed the UN Security Council to ban the sale or supply of helicopters to the Assad regime and to blacklist 11 Assad regime military commanders and officials over chemical weapons attacks.
Britain and France drafted a resolution that also sought to blacklist 10 Assad regime and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them. The entities could be subjected to a global asset freeze and travel ban by the UN Security Council.
The Syrian Coalition earlier called for imposing punitive measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, as required by Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013), 2209 (2015) and 2235 (2015) sanctioning violations of international law and the willful killing of innocent civilians. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)