Coalition Against Chemical Weapons in Kurdistan demands investigation

A new campaign has been launched to demand action on the alleged use of chemical weapons by Turkey against the Kurds in its latest military operation into Northern Iraq.

The Coalition Against Chemical Weapons in Kurdistan has been founded to ensure that action is taken to verify these serious allegations of what would be a war crime. 

A launch statement setting out the demands and plans of the campaign has gathered an impressive list of initial signatories that includes prominent lawyers, writers, trade unionists, rights activists, academics and community workers. See below and attached.

While the Turkish military has a reputation for brutality in its conduct of operations against the Kurds, disturbing reports emerged of the use of chemical weapons in its latest operation, which began on 23 April. Operation Claw Lightning has seen the Turkish military wage a ground invasion and bombing of the mountainous Duhok province, including civilian areas, during the course of which chemical substances such as white phosphorous were allegedly used.  

This alleged war crime demands independent investigation. To date, no action has been taken by the international authorities responsible for verifying such incidents.   

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the official implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention, has not conducted any investigations into the alleged use of chemical weapons. As a result, there exists no independent corroboration of Turkey’s alleged violation of the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons.  

The Coalition Against Chemical Weapons in Kurdistan was established to make sure that action is taken. As can be seen from the initial signatories to the founding statement, the campaign is a broad coalition of experts and activists who are deeply concerned about the use of chemical weapons and the fact that no action has so far been taken to verify exactly what may have occurred.  

The campaign is planning to organise a high-level international delegation composed of medical and other experts to visit the region to gather the necessary evidence, meet with the people in the region who were victims of the attacks and compile a report of their findings of the possible use of chemical weapons to present before the public and the UN in Geneva.  

Only by gathering samples for analysis in supervised laboratory conditions can the allegations be substantiated and provide the proof whether chemical weapons have indeed been used by the Turkish military.     

More independent voices need to speak out and build pressure on the international community to take action to curb Turkey’s alleged violations. If Turkey is permitted to get away with such violations it will set a precedent that will allow other states to carry out similar violations in future. The world will become a much less safe place and the legal safeguards will be eroded.   

The campaign reminds the international community that using chemical weapons is a war crime. As a result, the allegations need to be treated with the utmost seriousness and cannot simply be swept under the carpet.