WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement after Russia vetoed the renewal of a Syria chemical weapons oversight body in the UN Security Council earlier this week:
“In 2015, the world came together to condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria and set up an investigative body to hold accountable those responsible for such actions. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) – was unanimously created by the UN Security Council and its mandate was renewed in 2016 for other year. Despite constant attempts to slow and limit its investigation, the JIM has successfully been able to verify numerous chemical attacks in Syria and has scientifically concluded that the Syrian regime was behind many of these attacks.
“Despite, or perhaps because of, the JIM’s success in identifying the Assad regime’s war crimes, Russia vetoed an extension of the JIM’s mandate. Russia once again has shown that it is complicit in Bashar al-Assad’s barbarous conduct against the Syrian people, siding with a dictator and war criminal while stopping continued investigation into his regime’s horrendous use of chemical weapons.
“The Counteracting America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, signed into law on August 2nd, includes provisions which sanction Russia for its support of the Assad regime. Based on Russia’s veto at the UN, the administration should immediately implement these sanctions to increase pressure on Moscow.
“Russia’s veto comes as the JIM is about to release a report that will most likely confirm what we already know: that Russia’s client, the Assad regime, used chemical weapons against defenseless civilians, including children, in a despicable April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun. President Putin cannot credibly convene parties for a political transition in Syria while abdicating any moral authority and shielding the Assad regime, for the ninth time, from accountability for its war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“This debate is by no means over. It is absolutely critical that the JIM’s mandate be renewed, in its current form, before it expires in mid-November. The JIM must be allowed to continue its work, and the Assad regime and its backers in Russia and Iran must be held accountable. This is absolutely critical not only for Syrian people who deserve justice for the unspeakable horrors they have been subjected to, but also to deter the use of chemical weapons in future conflicts.”