Syrian Rebels May Have Used Sarin
GENEVA (Reuters) United Nations human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syrias civil war and medical workers indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said Sunday.
The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces using chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said Carla Del Ponte, a commission member.
Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals, Ms. Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television. According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.
This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities, she added, speaking in Italian.
Ms. Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general who also served as prosecutor on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, gave no details about when or where sarin may have been used.
The Geneva-based inquiry into war crimes and other human rights violations is separate from an investigation into allegations concerning the use of chemical weapons in Syria instigated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which has since stalled.
The government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and rebels fighting a civil war that is now in its third year accuse each another of carrying out three chemical weapon attacks, one near Aleppo and another near Damascus, both in March, and another in Homs in December.
The civil war began with antigovernment protests in March 2011. The conflict has now claimed an estimated 70,000 lives and forced 1.2 million Syrian refugees to flee.
The United States has said it has varying degrees of confidence that sarin has been used by Syrias government on its people.
President Obama last year declared that the use or deployment of chemical weapons by Mr. Assad would cross a red line.