The unrest in Kiev was not the only international event to attract attention at the end of November – beginning of December. Some try to raise ballyhoo over the issue of referring Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
On November 20 a new draft resolution was approved by UN General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). It denounces the «use of chemical weapons» by Syria no matter the chemical arsenal elimination is in full swing there. The Syria draft resolution strongly condemns «the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and the government affiliated shabbiha militias» including the use of heavy arms against civilians. The document calls for referral of Syria to the International Criminal Court. Russia and China voted against the draft resolution. (1)
On December 2, after a long lull, Navanethem «Navi» Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, lashed out against Bashar Assad personally. The United Nations human rights chief said evidence collected during Syria's civil war implicates president Bashar al-Assad in war crimes. «They point to the fact that the evidence indicates responsibility at the highest level of government, including the head of state», Ms. Pillay told a news conference. «I reiterate my call to all member states to refer the situation to the ICC», she said. (2) United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos joined in saying 250 thousand Syrians are cut off from aid in besieged communities across Syria while perhaps some 2.5 million are in hard- to-reach areas – places that aid workers have been able to reach but not frequently enough to make any real headway against the overall needs, she added. (3)
Finally on December 3 Great Britain transmitted to the Security Council a letter by the so-called «Syria National Coalition» which, elated by Navi Pillay’s statements, reiterated the demand to take tough measures against «the Assad’s regime» by the United Nations Security Council. In the letter to Ban Ki-Moon, obtained by The Associated Press, the coalition's U.N. representative, Najib Ghadbian, urged the U.N. team to «act without delay to investigate reported incidents of chemical weapons use throughout this area». He insisted the Syria’s situation be referred to the International Criminal Court. (4)
What has caused the new wave of activities aimed at «protecting Syrian people»?
On October 23 Syria submitted a plan (declaration) for the destruction of its chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons (OPCW). The document disclosed details on the chemical program. Besides, On 21 November 2013, the Syrian Arab Republic submitted an amendment to its initial declaration increasing the total amount of declared munitions to approximately 1,260 items. On 31 October 2013, the Joint Mission confirmed that the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic had completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable. By doing so, Syria met the deadline set by the OPCW Executive Council to complete destruction as soon as possible and in any case not later than 1 November 2013. (5) According to the decision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons, Syria is to eliminate all materials and related equipment during the first half of 2014. On November 18 Syria informed the OPCW secretariat of the elimination commission that all declared items in the category «3» (chemical weapons) had been destroyed.
Previously the OPCW Executive Council approved a detailed plan for the destruction of the Syrian chemical arsenal, according to which all the materials for the manufacture of chemical weapons, except isopropanol, are to be exported from Syria until February 5, 2014, and the most dangerous ones have to be exported by the end of this year.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons confirms special elements of declared buildings and facilities are being destroyed. Reporting on the progress on the ground, the Director-General informed the Executive Council that the OPCW-UN Joint Mission was able to verify the destruction of over 60 percent of Syria’s declared category 3 unfilled munitions to date.
One more problem is that it is unclear how and where chemical toxic agents will be destroyed. According to article 3 of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and Their Destruction of 1993 the Syrian Arab Republic submitted its initial declaration to OPCW on 23 October 2013. Having studied the plan, the General Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons came to the conclusion that the Syria’s plan to destroy the weapons outside the country is the most viable one to do it safely and as soon as possible.
The OPCW – UN Joint Mission came up with a detailed plan to destroy the Syria’s chemical weapons outside the territory of the country. The weapons are to be neutralized aboard a US Navy ship. The chemicals will be diluted to safer levels using a process called hydrolysis. Packed materials and containers are to be transported to Latakia (Syria) and then transported by OPCW members to the US ship. The weapons will not be eliminated in the Syria territorial waters. The neutralization process will be implemented by private companies. (6) The secretariat has worked out the plan to guarantee security while putting the material into special containers to transport it by sea. The containers are to meet international standards and should be up to par meeting safely standards while transported beyond the Syria’s territory. Inspectors are to be on site, remote surveillance equipment is to be used and the containers are to be sealed and weighed. Inspection groups will make selective probes to identify the material taken out. The results will be added to the documents related to the sea containers. The OPCW teams will seal the cargo after it is certified for sea transportation; every container will have a tracking device. The UN will provide logistical support at the stage of transportation, as well as coordinate and foster the international support. On December 6 the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in a statement issued through its joint mission with the United Nations said all of the unfilled (category 3) munitions declared by Syrian have been destroyed. (7)
The process of Syria’s chemical weapons elimination is making headway fully in accordance with the plan worked out by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The United Nations Secretary General said the Geneva-2 talks are to kick off on January 22 (8). The fact that the plan is being successfully implemented evokes fury among those, who, as before, rely exclusively on the use of force and toppling the SyriPresident as the ways to solve the issue…
The weapons are to be fully destroyed till June 30 2014 outside Syria. The nearest step is the destruction of another category of chemical weapons on the Syrian territory till December 2013. (9) Those who relied on undermining the process of peaceful management in Syria realize they have very little time left.