By Brendan Tierney SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — The Syrian Accountability Project, a team of Syracuse University law students who investigate war crimes in the Syrian Civil War, released a White Paper Wednesday focusing on this month’s use of chemical weapons in the rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun.
The researchers found sarin gas, a deadly nerve agent, was used in the attack.
President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s regime committed a crime against humanity and a war crime under international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention, said Zachary Lucas, executive director of the Syrian Accountability Project.
Sarin gas can kill in less than 10 minutes after exposure and left at least 87 people dead, including 28 children, according to the report. Around 500 others were injured, making this the deadliest chemical attack since President Assad first used sarin gas in 2013, the report said.
After the 2013 attack, an international agreement ordered the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile, Lucas said. The sarin used on April 4, was either produced after the initial destruction or hidden from inspectors, Lucas said.
Lucas believes that any of the white paper’s recommended responses will come down to international politics, but said Syria needs to open up to investigators.
“They need to allow for independent monitors to come in there to investigate what happened on the ground,” Lucas said. “And then they need to declare their stockpiles of sarin gas so that the independent monitors can identify and destroy them.”
Sarin gas is clear and odorless, making it impossible to control or detect once released into the atmosphere, Lucas said. This put first responders in danger of exposure to the deadly nerve agent because its presence was unknown at the time of the attack, Lucas said.
Wednesday’s white paper is not the only report being released by the Syrian Accountability Project this month, Lucas said.
“We’re going to give a historical narrative of Aleppo throughout history and then through the Civil War,” Lucas said. “Then we go down various instances that are legally relevant such as bombings of hospitals, the indiscriminate bombing campaign that was carried out by both Syria and Russian actors, extra-judicial killings and attacks on humanitarian workers.”
A panel of Syria experts will discuss the next white paper release on Thursday, April 27 at 10 a.m. in Syracuse University’s Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.