Last week, a United Nations commission released its much-awaited final report on its investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. The 85-page report concluded based on evidence gathered between April and November 2013 that “chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, not only in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August 2013, but also on a smaller scale in Jobar on 24 August 2013, Saraqueb on 29 April 2013, Ashrafiah Sahnaya on 25 August 2013 and Khan Al Asal on 19 March 2013.” To arrive at its findings, the UN mission triangulated several sources of evidence, ranging from laboratory results from environmental and biomedical samples to interviews with victims and witnesses as well as Syrian government officials.
The report explicitly accuses the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, in particular a sarin nerve gas agent, in 16 separate incidents. Several of the incidents, such as one alleged by the UK and Qatar governments to have taken place in the Damascus suburb of Darayya on March 13, 2013, targeted unarmed civilians.
On September 8, Syria’s state news agent SANA reported that the Syrian government had denied the UN commission’s accusations. Damascus sent the UN a letter stating that “Syria has not and will not use toxic gases against its people because it does not have them in the first place.”