HRW: Justice elusive for Syria chemical attack victims

Images of the lifeless bodies of children shocked the world

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Human Rights Watch Thursday said that hundreds of victims of a chemical weapons attack in Syria remained without justice one year on, days after Damascus’s stockpile was completely destroyed.

Thursday marked the first anniversary of the attack on the capital’s Ghouta region, a stronghold of the rebel movement, which the United States estimated killed up to 1,400 people.

Images of the lifeless bodies of children - some 426 died - shocked the world and the finger of blame was quickly pointed at Syrian troops loyal to President Basher al-Assad, who denied involvement.

After a global outcry and American threats to strike regime positions, Assad agreed to an international plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

On Monday, Barack Obama hailed the completion of the destruction, which was carried out aboard a U.S. Navy ship on the Mediterranean Sea.

“Important though it is, the removal of chemical weapons from Syria’s arsenal will do nothing for the hundreds of victims who died a year ago and the relatives who survive them,” said Nadim Houry, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at HRW.

“Closure of the chemical weapons issue in Syria will be possible only when those who ordered and executed the Ghouta attacks have been held to account and are behind bars,” he added.

The HRW statement also said that “available evidence strongly suggests that Syrian forces carried out the attack”.

“International efforts to ensure credible justice for these and other ongoing grave human rights crimes in Syria have proved elusive,” the New York-based body added.

In a statement, the opposition Syrian National Council said that the perpetrators had gone “unpunished” and that “crimes against humanity” were still being committed with other weapons.

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