The Syrian Crisis at a time when a plethora of developments are taking place after the alleged usage of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government forces in the City of Jasmine – Damascus, a total of 1,429 Syrians including, 426 children, were killed in the attack but Syria is not the first and only country that used chemical weapons in this world. Human Rights Commissioner and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Kotelawala Defence University, Attorney-at-law Dr. Prathibha Mahanamahewa speaks about the Syrian crisis and use of chemical weapons along with international law. Here are excerpts of the interview with the Human Rights Commissioner.
Q:What do you mean by chemical weapons? Why are they banned in warfare’s? A: There are three types of war. One is done by using conventional armouries. That is to say: by using visible and legally accepted weapons, ranging from Ak 47 to multi-barrel rocket launchers. This method is the orthodox method we can see in the battlefields in present day. The second way of war can be committed by using chemical compounds which is the talking point of the Syrian issue as well. “Using these highly adverse biological weapons will result in severe sufferings of the persons exposed to them, and prohibited by all nations highlighting them as unconventional means of war against humanity. And they may be classified as weapons of mass destruction too. Therefore, these are prohibited.
Having had the luxury of the theories of Albert Einstein, scientists accomplished the ‘Manhattan Project’, afterwards, reached to more powerful fusion weapons known as ‘hydrogen bombs’. These were some historical events of chemical weapons. However, it is very difficult to trace the production of chemical weapons on an industrial scale since they are produced in laboratories for scientific purposes.
The last one is the cyber warfare which is still not familiar to the world as much as others. Paralyse the electronic devices of enemies, through that, place them in unbearable difficulties - is the practice of this method of war.
" America always tries to fish in troubled waters. Recently, they interfered in Iraq, Libya, Iran, Maldives, and now Syria. To be honest, they are the ones who backed the Arab Spring as well "
Q:Are there any other countries alleged to have used chemical weapons, prior to the allegations levelled against Syria? A: Why not, I recall in 1987, Iraq was reprimanded as their aircraft delivered what was believed to be mustard gas in an attack against the Iranian city of Sardasht and in 2003 the US military littered Iraq with thousands of tons of munitions made of toxic depleted uranium, followed by a another chemical weapon attack in 2004 with white phosphorus on Iraqi civilians. In particular the US military dumped 20 million gallons of chemicals including the very toxic agent ‘orange’ during the Vietnam war from 1962-1971. Similarly, Israel attacked Palestinian civilians with white phosphorus in 2008-2009. Apart from that, though Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were not chemical per se, they may also come under the broad category of unconventional weapons of warfare.
Q:What is the current international law against the usage of chemical weapons? A: First I must draw your attention on the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It categorically states that the purpose of UN is to prevent World War III, with utmost commitment by every nation. Bearing this in mind, all the other subordinate conventions came into protect the human race from any looming third world war. Some conventions laid the legal foundation against using chemical weapons in warfare. The Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 provides a legally binding world-wide ban on the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. Under Article 23 (for the Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land) of The Hague Convention has especially prohibited employing “poison and poisoned arms”. The Geneva Convention also has some provisions against exploiting chemical weapons as a means of war. Also, the U.N. Security Council can impose measures under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. But it does not specifically state that the resolution being sought now will be under that chapter. The framework they laid out calls for a U.N. resolution demanding that Syria’s chemical weapons be placed under international control. Security Council powers are now trying to put that framework into a resolution. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “and his Western allies” of misunderstanding the deal, according to Russia’s state-run Itar-Tass news agency recently.
" I am not a follower of Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein. But the way in which they were killed was appalling. Gaddafi was killed like a dog in broad day light by the Western baked forces while the whole world enjoyed that sadistic video footage with folded hands "
Q: Since 2011, it has been alleged that Syria has employed chemical weapons on 5 occasions. To prevent this, what has been done by the international community, or the United Nations? A: As I told you before, some stringent surveillance must be carried out over the countries suspected of using chemical weapons. There are subtle differences between doing experiments for the sake of science and for the purpose of mass destruction. Thus, until one country uses their chemical weapons in combat, we cannot identify it. Answering your question, America had requested several times from the UN to set arrangements for a limited attack against this unruly behaviour of Syria. But, none of them were implemented, and until the last couple of days there was no protest by the world leaders against Syria. On the other hand, though America emphasises a usage of Sarin gas in Damascus, without cogent evidence other countries cannot take action.
Q: There are certain allegations that the Sri Lanka Army had also used chemical weapons during the final stage of war against the Tamil tigers. How do you respond to this allegation? A: If such allegation is levelled against the army there must be adequate evidence to prove or commence investigations based on materials, injuries or eye witnesses. If evidence is available, the West may definitely push for a resolution. Like Syria there is no evidence of even possession of chemical weapons in Sri Lanka
Q: How do you see the American approach? A: They are very crafty at this kind of issues. If there is any internal turmoil that runs in a country, the presence of America is for sure and not surprising. America always tries to fish in troubled waters. Recently, they interfered in Iraq, Libya, Iran, Maldives, and now Syria. To be honest, they are the ones who backed the Arab Spring as well. They supported Libyan rebel groups against Gaddafi; they supported Syrian rebels as well. What is the intention behind them all? That is to destabilize the incumbent governments which are of course going through some bad patches, and facilitate to elect some puppet rulers who will obey none other than America in the future. They want to become the “policeman” of the globe. To achieve that goal they would always interfere with the affairs of others. Thousands of wiki-leaks cables prove how alert they are on other countries, to take any advantage of internal trouble. One classic example is the resolution against Sri Lanka. Before, that resolution came in; Hillary Clinton had a crucial meeting with Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi not to talk about their businesses but to alk about us. Who has given that right to them? However, we must not forget the fact that more than 70% percent of peace-loving American citizens are against these sorts of stubborn actions led by the American government targeting minor countries.
Q:Could a sovereign state be attacked by another sovereign state? If could, what are the prerequisites? And tell us, what is the law pertaining to the use of force against any member state? A: Any country cannot attack another country arbitrarily. But, there are a few exceptions which must scarcely be exercised only after all the other ways have been exhausted. If I say some of those prerequisites - countries can impose sanctions (e.g: economic) against the untamed state, Boycotting the major events (during the apartheid period South Africa was faced with this way of subjugation), issuing travel advisories against that state, blacklisting the particular country etc. With the globalisation effect, if any country was segregated by utilising these methods, no doubt that country would undergo unbearable torments and come back to the civilised track. Therefore, exhausting these pre-conditions are a must and an efficient way of forcing the uncontrolled country to avoid their wrongs.
However, if any country, keeps committing unparalleled atrocities against the human race, other countries have a legitimate right to attack that prodigal son by recoursing to the “use of force”. Under this banner, any move forward which is not accented by other nations will become “an act of aggression”. The American move which we saw in this Syrian crisis is clearly nothing but an act of aggression.
Q:Did America have the mandate granted by the United Nations in this scenario? A: “No, not at all. That is why I told you, this was an act of aggression. Look at the statement of Russian leader, Putin. He firmly mentioned that, America has transgressed their limits”.
Q:What is your observation after analysing this whole story? A: We all know what happened to the “League of Nations”. My personal opinion is, if Western countries,especially America, do not use the United Nations as an effective apparatus to prevent imminent World War III; and instead use the UN as a cat’s paw to achieve their ulterior motives, the day is not very long for us to see the caricatures of this world organisation called the UN. It will be the same as what happened to the “League of Nations”. There will be a day that both will be in the “Museum of History”.