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Panel discussion

Monday, 04. December 2023 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm Save in my calendar

Panel discussion

Use of chemical weapons in Syria – ten years after Ghouta

On 21 August 2013 images of the over 1000 children, women and men who died from chemical weapons in the Damascus vicinity shook the world. Since US-president Obama had defined the use of chemical weapons as a “red line”, the Syrian regime experimented on a small scale, how far it could go. The attacks of 21 August 2013 were a drastic wake-up call. A US intervention was averted on the condition that the Syrian regime destroy its – entirely undeclared – chemical weapons arsenal and accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention. In September 2013, the UN Security Council passed one of the sharpest resolutions on Syria allowing even military intervention, if the regime continued to use chemical weapons. However, since then, activists and experts have documented hundreds of further chemical weapons missions by the Syrian air force. The so-called "Islamic State" is also accused of having used mustard gas in Syria.

Relatives continue to seek justice. At the moment, experts see no possibility of bringing this case before the International Criminal Court. Other cases – e.g. torture by state institutions – have been tried in national courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction. In this case, however, an international format would be more appropriate because this universal norm requires a universal response, since such a serious violation of international norms sets a dangerous precedent. We would like to use the sad commemoration of 10 years of chemical weapons use with impunity as an opportunity to discuss possible roads for accountability.

What is the status of high profile and low key initiatives around this issue? What legal paths have not yet been taken to prevent this serious violation of norms from going unpunished? How does this fit into a feminist foreign policy framework?


  • Ibrahim Olabi, Lawyer who is working on an initiative to prosecute the use of chemical weapons in Syria internationally, Member of Guernica 37 Chambers, London
  • Catherine Marchi-Uhel, Leader of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 (IIIM), Geneva, via Zoom
  • Lubna Kanawati, Syrian Activist

Introduction and moderation: Petra Stienen, Syria & human rights expert, former senator and diplomat, The Hague


Linda Böttcher



» Participation on site
at the the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Conference Center, Schumannstr. 8, 10117 Berlin

Please register. Unfortunately, the number of seats is limited. Should the room capacity be exhausted, we will transmit the conference via video to other rooms. We would like to point out that there is no entitlement to a seat in the room.

» Livestream
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Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung - Headquarter Berlin
Schumannstr. 8
10117 Berlin
Heinrich Böll Foundation - Headquarters Berlin
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