1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
ConflictsMiddle East

Syria stripped of voting rights by chemical weapons watchdog

April 21, 2021

Syria has been stripped of its voting rights at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), after the UN body repeatedly found it to have used chemical weapons in its civil war.

A woman lies on a stretcher inside a hospital after what the Syrian state media said was a suspected toxic gas attack in Aleppo, Syria November 24, 2018.
Bashar al-Assad's regime was found to have used chemical weapons during the civil war, though it accused rebel forces of the same actionsImage: Reuters/Sana

Syria was stripped of its voting rights at the global chemical weapons watchdog by member states on Wednesday.  The largely symbolic motion was a result of the watchdog's findings that Syrian forces repeatedly used poison gas during the war in the country.

As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (the OPCW), with its 193 member states, oversees the global endeavor to permanently eliminate chemical weapons.

A majority of nations supported the decision to immediately revoke Syria's privileges at the agency.

Repeated investigations concluded that Syrian government forces used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs in attacks between 2015 and 2018 that investigators said killed or injured thousands.

Who voted for and who against ?

Britain, France and the United States and 43 other member countries initiated the proposal on the OPCW's governing Conference of States Parties. In total 87 voted in favor and 15 against, meeting the required two-thirds majority of votes. There were 34 abstentions out of 136 countries taking part.

The "EU also welcomes the OPCW report," Peter Stano, spokesperson for the external affairs of the EU wrote on Twitter. "Those responsible must be held accountable."

Iran, Russia and Syria were among those to vote against.

According to the Russian News Agency TASS, the Russian envoy to the OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, had criticized steps to take such a move against the Syrian regime. "The accusations against Syria are far-fetched," he claimed. "They are motivated by a geopolitical plot of those countries which are promoting their selfish agenda on the Syrian issue."

Dmitry Polyanskiy, First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, called the voting "a stunt," and "nothing but another clear blow to #OPCW credibility."

Will there be any executive actions?

Although largely symbolic, the move sends a political signal to Syria that breaches of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits all use of chemicals on the battlefield, will not be accepted.

Syria and its military ally Russia have repeatedly denied using chemical weapons during the war, which has turned the agency into a flashpoint between rival political forces and deadlocked the U.N. Security Council.

Can Assad be charged with war crimes?

mna/msh (Reuters, TASS)