TEL AVIV – The UN’s disarmament conference on chemical weapons will be presided over next month by Syria, despite the ruling Assad regime’s repeated chemical attacks on its own citizens, the most recent occurring on Saturday and resulting in the deaths of at least 42 people.
Geneva-based NGO UN Watch slammed the move, with its executive director Hillel Neuer saying, “Having the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad preside over global chemical and nuclear weapons disarmament will be like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter.”
He called the decision “obscene” and added that it “cast[s] a shadow on the reputation of the UN as a whole.”
An independent monitoring group called on UN chief Antonio Guterres to protest the conference’s president, Syrian envoy Hussam Edin Aala, and for the ambassadors of European nations and the U.S. to walk out of the conference during the four weeks of his presidency.
Neuer’s organization further urged the UN “to understand that at a time when Syria is gassing its own men, women and children to death, to see Syria heading the world body that is supposed to protect these victims will simply shock the conscience of humanity.”
The news comes in the wake of a gas attack on the Syrian town of Douma that left 42 dead — including children — and many others foaming at the mouth and gasping for air.
In addition to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, established in 1979, also negotiated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as well as the convention against biological weapons.
“The Assad regime’s documented use of chemical weapons remains the most serious violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the treaty’s 20-year history,” said Neuer.
Neuer added that Syria’s presiding over the conference would likely be “exploited by Syrian propaganda, as they have done after other UN elections, to legitimize Assad’s cruel regime.”
“Syria’s use of deadly chemical weapons and its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons, in breach of its disarmament obligations, run counter to the objectives and fundamental principles of the Conference on Disarmament itself. Syria’s chairmanship will only undermine the integrity of both the disarmament framework and of the United Nations, and no country should support that,” Neuer stated.