Western-Russian Confrontation on Mandate of Investigation Team in Possible Usage of Chemical Weapons in Syria

A civil defense member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib, Syria. Reuters
A civil defense member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib, Syria. Reuters
TT

Western-Russian Confrontation on Mandate of Investigation Team in Possible Usage of Chemical Weapons in Syria

A civil defense member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib, Syria. Reuters
A civil defense member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib, Syria. Reuters

The United Nations Security Council will formally discuss today the report of the UN panel on specifying the party responsible for chemical attacks in Syria amid a possible Western-Russian confrontation after Washington and Moscow handed out competitive projects to renew the investigation team’s mandate, which ends on November 17.

Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu is expected to review the team’s final report on the attacks on Khan Sheikhun and Umm Hawsh with chemical weapons.

Russia is trying to extend the team’s mandate in a modified and conditional way while the United States insists that the same mandate should be retained.

The team has earlier confirmed the responsibility of the Syrian government for the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhun, while ISIS was responsible for targeting Umm Hawsh using sulfur mustard.

The team, which has been entrusted with the joint investigation mechanism, has submitted its report to the UN Security Council recently, stressing that "the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of the sarin gas on Khan Sheikhun on April 4, 2017."

It added that ISIS elements used mustard gas in an attack, which targeted Umm Hawsh northern Aleppo in September 2016.

The Russian project demands to freeze the UN report, which blamed the Syrian regime for the deadly attack using sarin gas, open a new investigation into the incident and extend the mandate of the team's work for six months instead of one year, according to the US project.

The Russian project also demanded that the Commission send a team to Khan Shaykhun to conduct an integrated investigation as well as another team to Shayrat Air Base to collect samples to determine whether sarin gas had been stored there.

Two weeks ago, Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution that would have extended by a year an investigation of who is behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria.



Sudan: Legal Experts Urge ICC to Dispatch Team to Probe War Crimes in Darfur

International Criminal Court (ICC) Persecutor Karim Khan (AFP)
International Criminal Court (ICC) Persecutor Karim Khan (AFP)
TT

Sudan: Legal Experts Urge ICC to Dispatch Team to Probe War Crimes in Darfur

International Criminal Court (ICC) Persecutor Karim Khan (AFP)
International Criminal Court (ICC) Persecutor Karim Khan (AFP)

The ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan urged civil society organizations to provide any evidence and material to aid an urgent investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.
“We’re asking national authority counterparts, State parties and non-State parties alike, to share any evidence... in relation to these profound allegations of international crimes that are increasingly emerging and cannot be ignored,” Khan said following an attack on the South Hospital in al-Fasher, the capital city of North Darfur province on Sunday.
In a statement on X, Khan said he was “particularly concerned by the ethnically motivated nature” of attacks on civilian populations, especially in the western Darfur region, asking people to provide evidence so the ICC could investigate further.
Legal expert Hatem Elias told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday that “the Darfur file being investigated by the ICC is still open based on Security Council resolutions and previous court investigations that led to the charges against former President Omar al-Bashir, and a number of his aides.”
Elias said that previous Security Council resolutions granting the ICC the power to prosecute crimes against humanity “enabled the court to collect strong evidence confirming that crimes against humanity were committed in Darfur.”
For his part, legal expert and human rights activist El Moez Hadra told Asharq Al-Awsat that Khan’s appeal reveal that the ICC is interested to investigate the fresh attacks on al-Fasher and at the same time, continue to respect the 2005 Security Council resolution that referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC Prosecutor for investigations into allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“The ICC is currently questioning old and new suspects,” he said.
But the legal expert appealed to the ICC Prosecutor to form an international commission of inquiry that visits Sudan and provides its own evidence rather than just urge organizations to offer information.
Khan, as a public prosecutor, has the right to form an ICC commission tasked to collect factual evidence rather than ask for information from activists and human rights defenders, who are at risk and are being killed and detained by both warring sides in Sudan, Hadra affirmed.
He based his request on the well-known Security Council “Cassese Commission” that investigated war crimes in Darfur. The commission was led by the Italian Antonio Cassese and Egyptian Mohammed Fayek, who visited Darfur and wrote their own report on the situation in the country, the expert explained.
Hadra said Khan’s appeal for organizations to provide the court with evidence is “useless.”
“It’s not going to help the court because evidence is lost over time and witnesses are moving to other places... It is important to send an ICC field team that has international protection,” Hadra said, adding that Sudanese teams and lawyers are getting killed while investigating war crimes in the country.