The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

UN Report Verifies Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

Following the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria on August 21, 2013, the United Nations sent a team of experts to Damascus to investigate the area and determine the validity of the charges against the Assad regime. The UN team's findings were recently released in a report which concluded that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used on a relatively large scale against civilians in the Ghouta area of Damascus.

The report relied on the following facts collected from the attack sites to support its conclusion:

  • "Impacted and exploded surface-to-surface rockets, capable to carry a chemical payload, were found to contain Sarin.
  • Close to the rocket impact sites, in the area where patients were affected, the environment was found to be contaminated by Sarin.
  • Over fifty interviews given by survivors and health care workers provided ample corroboration of the medical and scientific results.
  • A number of patients/survivors were clearly diagnosed as intoxicated by an organophosphorous compound.
  • Blood and urine samples from the same patients were found positive for Sarin and Sarin signatures."

In a note included in the report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expresses his "profound shock and regret" on the verified use of chemical weapons in Syria. He states that the "international community has a moral responsibility to hold accountable those responsible" and hopes that the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United National Security Council (UNSC) will move quickly to implement the framework proposed by the US and Russia for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.   

While the UN report itself remains impartial and objective in its assessment, since its release the report has been intensely analyzed for its potential policy implications regarding the elimination of the Syrian stockpile. For a closer look at these interpretations check out the Los Angeles Times online article, "U.N. Report Cites 'Clear' Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria."