U.N. Commission of Inquiry Report on Syria (Doc. A-HRC-23-58); Seizure of al-Qusair; Use of Chemical Weapons by al-Assad

The latest report Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria was released on June 4. 2013.

See Human Rights Council, United Nations, “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,” Advance Unedited Version, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/58, June 4, 2013.

The full text of the report in English is found here.

The full text of the report in Arabic is found here.

The Human Rights council held a dialogue with the Commission on June 4.

See “Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria,” United Nations Human Rights, June 4, 2013.

The Report provides a superb account of the facts of atrocities by the al-Assad regime in Syria, and also reports on war crimes and abuses by the insurgents.  But it falls short when it suggests, in conclusion, that the best path forward is “a diplomatic surge”.

The phrase “diplomatic surge” is meaningless.  It’s use is equivalent to throwing one’s arms up into the air. Diplomats have been working on the issue of Syria for over two years.  Diplomacy is not what has been lacking, but rather action on the ground that might halt the commission of war crimes, cirmes against humanity and other atrocities by the Syrian regime and its accomplices, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and China. Still, the task of the Commission was to report on the crimes that have been committed, and in accomplishing this task they have done a superb job.

A good account of the report is provided by Daniel Serwer in the following article:

Daniel Serwer, “Wishing doesn’t make it so,” peacefare.net, June 5, 2013.

The Report describes the horrors of the war taking place in Syria. Those horrors continue to unfold, day after day. Among the most important recent developments have been the taking of the town of al-Qusair by the forces of Bashar al-Assad joined by Hezbollah militia members from Lebanon, and the surfacing of evidence that the al-Assad regimes has used chemical weapons, crossing Obama’s so-called “red line”. Britain and France have stated publicly that they are convinced by the evidence. Indeed, France’s Le Monde had reporters who were with the rebels for a two-week period during which such attacks took place. Obama, not surprisingly, said more investigation and evidence are needed.


Liz Sly (Beirut), “France says it is ‘certain’ that Syrian government has used sarin gas,” Washington Post, June 4, 2013 (9:53 a.m.). Sly reports:

France “now is certain that sarin gas was used in Syria multiple times and in a localized way,” according to a statement issued by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, which said tests carried out by a French laboratory on samples taken from victims showed the presence of the nerve gas.

Fabius said his government is confident that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for at least one of the two instances in which France had confirmed the use of the gas.

“In the second case, there is no doubt that it is the regime and its accomplices,” Fabius told the France 2 television station in an interview. “We have integrally traced the chain, from the attack, to the moment people were killed, to when the samples were taken and analyzed.”

His comments followed an eyewitness account by two reporters with France’s Le Monde newspaper describing how canisters containing small quantities of what appeared to be a nerve agent had repeatedly been fired at rebel positions during their two-week stay with opposition fighters in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, a hotly contested battleground where the regime has made significant advances in recent weeks.

–Liz Sly, Washington Post, June 4, 2013

See also:

Le Monde.fr avec Christophe Ayad, “Syrie : la France “a la certitude” que du gaz sarin a été utilisé ‘à plusieurs reprises’,” Le Monde, le 4 juin, 2013 (mis à jour le 5 juin à 8:28 h).

Le Monde, AFP/Reuters, “L’armée syrienne “contrôle totalement” la région de Qoussair,” Le Monde, le 5 juin 2013 (8:22 h).

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James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.