Saudi Arabia: reported poison gas use by Syria is challenge to world

RIYADH Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:41am EDT

A wreckage of a car is seen amid damage at a site hit by what activists say was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kaheel village in the eastern countryside of Deraa April 14, 2014. Picture taken April 14, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Fares

A wreckage of a car is seen amid damage at a site hit by what activists say was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kaheel village in the eastern countryside of Deraa April 14, 2014. Picture taken April 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Fares

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RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Tuesday said the "grave news" that President Bashar al-Assad's forces had carried out two poison gas attacks last week was a challenge to "international will".

Rebels and the Syrian government have blamed each other for the alleged poison gas attacks on Friday and Saturday on rebel-held Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama. Both sides said chlorine gas had been used.

"These continuous violations by the Damascus regime require the international community to take firm action against the continuous defiance of international, Arab and Islamic will," Prince Saud said at a news conference in Riyadh.

The reported gas attacks posed a clear challenge to the Security Council decision to dismantle Assad's chemical arsenal, he said.

Saudi Arabia is a leading backer of rebels fighting against Assad, who is a close ally of the kingdom's main rival Shi'ite power Iran. It has supplied rebels with training, weapons and cash and worked to mobilize international support for them.

Asked about the possibility of supplying anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels, Prince Saud said that it was necessary to change the balance of military power on the ground in Syria but did not give further details.

"The only way the regime would listen to calls for peace is if he (Assad) is forced to agree that we cannot reach a military solution for his desire to quell the revolution," he said.

Chlorine gas, a deadly agent widely used in World War I, has industrial uses and is not on a list of chemical weapons that Assad declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog last year for destruction.

"Chlorine was not part of the declared stockpile but chlorine is a chemical weapon under the chemical weapon convention," said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, CEO of SecureBio, a U.K.-based consultancy firm.

De Bretton-Gordon said that while chlorine gas was readily available in Syria, the attacks consisted of chlorine containers being dropped from helicopters.

"As far as I am aware, the opposition does not have helicopters," he said.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai and Oliver Holmes in Beirut; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Comments (3)
Loucleve wrote:
News flash to Saudis.

Assad wins, you lose. Another false flag gas attack we aint buyin.

Apr 15, 2014 11:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Zeken wrote:
“As far as I am aware, the opposition does not have helicopters…”

No, but their allies do.

Apr 15, 2014 11:22am EDT  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
Poison gas reports are only designed to inflame a situation. This is what daily life is like in Syria. Poison gas could actually be the fastest way out of hell. There hasn’t been any mention of what happened to the chemical weapons removal for months now. The Saudis may actually be providing them.

From the UN news digest of April 14. And all sides are doing it – The opposition forces are just harder to document. They do a lot of murder of civilians robberies and kidnapping.


The United Nations human rights chief today condemned the rampant use of torture, including allegedly of children, in detention facilities across Syria by Government forces and some armed opposition groups.

“In armed conflict, torture constitutes a war crime. When it is used in a systematic or widespread manner, which is almost certainly the case in Syria, it also amounts to a crime against humanity,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

“I urge the Government and armed opposition groups in Syria to immediately halt the use of torture and ill-treatment, and to release all those who have been arbitrarily detained in conditions that clearly breach international human rights standards. Those detained must be treated humanely.”

The comments come as her office (OHCHR) issued a paper containing detailed testimony from victims and witnesses, describing a broad pattern of torture and ill-treatment against individuals in Government facilities, as well as documenting reports of torture by some armed groups.

The analysis is based on interviews by OHCHR with individuals who have spent time in detention facilities in Syria during the conflict.

“Upon arrival at a detention facility, detainees are routinely beaten and humiliated for several hours by the guards in what has come to be known as the ‘reception party’,” the paper states, citing accounts of torture and ill-treatment by various components of the Government’s security apparatus.

“Men, women and children have been routinely picked up from the street, their homes and workplaces, or arrested at Government-manned checkpoints,” it adds. “Many are activists – often students – as well as lawyers, medical personnel and humanitarian workers, and some just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

A 30-year-old university student described how he was beaten, how his beard was pulled out in clumps, his feet burned and his toenails torn off with pliers at an Air Force Intelligence facility in Hama, where he was interrogated daily for more than a month.

Two victims, a man and a woman, described the use of sexual violence against them. One 26-year-old woman told of repeated night-long interrogation sessions, during which she was beaten with electric cables and had her teeth pulled out. On one occasion, a security officer took her and another woman to a room where they were raped.

The paper also makes reference to cases of individuals who died in detention, in circumstances which suggest that torture was the cause.

“Occasionally, families are asked to sign papers stating that their relative was killed by armed opposition groups, and to immediately and discreetly bury the body,” it states.

Reports of torture by armed opposition groups appear to be on the rise since 2013, particularly in Al Raqqa, northern Syria, the paper states, although documenting allegations against such groups is particularly challenging due to constantly evolving alliances and changes in memberships, power structures and areas under their control.

However, testimony collected from victims suggests that those most at risk of being detained and tortured by some armed opposition groups are activists attempting to document human rights violations and individuals perceived to be pro-Government or affiliated with other armed opposition groups.

Former detainees described abhorrent conditions in Government detention centres, including one case where 60 people were crammed into one cell, with a hole in the corner to be used as a toilet. One 60-year-old man who spent three months in different detention centres described how, every day, “cellmates were taken for 30 or 45 minutes of interrogation and came back with their faces bleeding, barely able to walk, and with open wounds that remained untreated and became infected.”

Ms. Pillay stressed that international law unequivocally prohibits the use of torture, at all times and under all circumstances.

She said it was crucial that those in positions of authority publicly condemn the use of torture and other ill-treatment and ensure that those found guilty of perpetrating torture are held accountable. She stressed that all victims of torture and ill-treatment should be provided with redress, including fair compensation and rehabilitation.

The High Commissioner also reiterated her request to the Government to allow regular and unannounced access to all detention facilities to impartial international observers, including her office, the Commission of Inquiry on Syria and relevant UN independent human rights experts, to enable them to effectively monitor the situation.”

And the parties that pay for it all are always those who suffer the least. They may actually make money on it. If any of the powers that be were sincere about ending the conflict so that the situation could be solved rationally and legally they would amass their forces around the perimeter of Syria and seal the country in an hermetic quarantine and allow only those who really provided “antiseptic” humanitarian assistance access. The Israelis are still doing that the Gaza without a word of mention in this paper or anywhere else for that matter and they don’t truly have the legal right to do that. The Israeli’s use the tactic to stunt all development in Gaza and usually don’t give a damned what the UN has to say, anyway.

Apr 15, 2014 12:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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