Bashar al-Assad linked to chemical attacks in Syria: Report
In a shocking revelation, international investigators have for the first time said that they suspect President Bashar al-Assad and his brother are responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.
Reuters quoting a document says that a list has been produced of individuals whom the investigators have linked to a series of chlorine bomb attacks in 2014-15 including Assad and his younger brother Maher.
The list, which has been seen by Reuters but has not been made public, was based on a combination of evidence compiled by the U.N.-OPCW team in Syria and information from Western and regional intelligence agencies. Reuters was unable to independently review the evidence or to verify it.
The use of chemical weapons is banned under international law and could constitute a war crime.
While the inquiry has no judicial powers, any naming of suspects could lead to their prosecution. Syria is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), but alleged war crimes could be referred to the court by the Security Council - although splits among global powers over the war make this a distant prospect at present, it is reported.
The list identifies 15 people "to be scrutinized in relation to use of CW (chemical weapons) by Syrian Arab Republic Armed Forces in 2014 and 2015". It does not specify what role they are suspected of playing, but lists their titles.
It is split into three sections. The first, titled "Inner Circle President" lists six people including Assad, his brother who commands the elite 4th Armoured Division, the defence minister and the head of military intelligence.
The second section names the air force chief as well as four commanders of air force divisions. They include the heads of the 22nd Air Force Division and the 63rd Helicopter Brigade, units that the inquiry has previously said dropped chlorine bombs. The third part of the list - "Other relevant Senior Mil Personnel" - names two colonels and two major-generals.