Responding to chemical weapons violations in Syria: Legal, health, and humanitarian recommendations

Julia Brooks, Timothy B. Erickson, Stephanie Kayden, Raul Ruiz, Stephen Wilkinson, Frederick M. Burkle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Background: The repeated use of prohibited chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict poses serious health, humanitarian, and security threats to civilians, healthcare personnel, and first responders. Moreover, the use of chemical weapons constitutes a clear and egregious violation of international law - likely amounting to a war crime - for which continued impunity is setting a dangerous precedent in relation to current and future conflicts. This debate article calls upon concerned states, organizations, and individuals to respond urgently and unequivocally to this serious breach of international legal and humanitarian norms. Main Body: Based on health, humanitarian, and legal findings, this article calls for concrete action to: 1) reduce the risk of chemical weapons being used in current and future conflicts; 2) review and support the preparedness equipment and antidote supplies of first responders, humanitarian organizations, and military forces operating in Syria; 3) support international mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing the prohibition on chemical weapons, including through criminal accountability; 4) support civilian victims of chemical weapons attacks, including refugees; and 5) re-commit to the complete elimination of chemical weapons in compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (1993), a comprehensive treaty that bans chemical weapons and requires their complete destruction. Conclusion: All involved states and organizations should take urgent steps to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable victims of conflict, including victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and to reinforce international law in the face of such serious violations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalConflict and Health
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 19 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Chemical weapons
  • Conflict zones
  • Disaster preparedness
  • Humanitarian response
  • International law
  • International treaties
  • Nerve agents
  • Protection of civilians
  • Syria
  • United Nations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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