Kai Schadtle

Das völkerrechtliche Verbot des Einsatzes chemischer Waffen im Bürgerkrieg: Der Syrienkonflikt als Fallstudie

Section: Contributions and Reports
Archiv des Völkerrechts (AVR)

Volume 53 () / Issue 1, pp. 121-140 (20)

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Syria's repeated use of chemical weapons has been the focus of international attention and provoked intense indignation. The vast majority of the international community condemned the poison gas attacks in Ghouta, Idlib and Hama as contrary to international law. However, the illegality of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian armed conflict is often more asserted than proven, particularly when it is referred to as a breach of customary international law. This essay thus analyzes the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons in non-international armed conflicts and applies its findings to the Syrian civil war. Because the 1925 Geneva Protocol is not applicable in internal armed conflicts and Syria was not a member state of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention until 14 October 2013 the incidents prior to that date do not constitute a violation of treaty law. This especially applies to the Ghouta poison gas attack on 21 August 2013, which was by far the worst use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war until now. A customary prohibition of chemical warfare in non-international armed conflicts does not exist, since the periodic use of chemical weapons in such conflicts fails the criteria of state practice. Therefore, Syria has violated customary international law only because the attacks were directed against the civilian population.

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