19 APR 2018
Thank you for writing to me about the targeted action taken at the weekend to degrade and destroy the capacity of the Syrian dictator to use chemical weapons. I understand the concern about the use of force and the dangers of escalation. However, I believe the Prime Minister was right to take the action that she did. This is a link to her statement to the Commons as this sets out the detailed background to events and to the action taken.
Sadly we know that inaction in the face of the use of chemical weapons has consequences. We have witnessed a significant escalation in the use of these horrific weapons use, now including their deployment by Russia on the streets of Britain. Chemical weapons pose a real and terrible threat to us all and it was absolutely necessary to make it clear that their use will no longer go unpunished.
The chemical weapons Convention came into force in 1997-building on the 1925 Geneva protocol which banned the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. The chemical weapons Convention went further in aiming to eliminate a whole category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by state parties. The chemical weapons Convention ascribes nerve agents and blister agents to schedule one, the most controlled category -With good reason. These weapons present a grave threat to all humanity; their effects are particularly horrific and indiscriminate. Liquids droplets of nerve agents can be readily absorbed through the skin and will potentially affect anyone coming into contact with them. They can be transferred to others giving first-aid unless suitably protected and can be persistent in the environment, continuing the threat for days or in some cases weeks as is now demonstrated by ongoing traces of nerve agent in Salisbury. They not only target their intended victims but create further casualties in a way designed to spread maximum distress and to degrade the resources emergency services. Those who die do so in the most distressing manner. The effects of cholinesterase inhibitor nerve agents on the peripheral and central nervous systems has truly awful effects. Severe initial symptoms come from high levels of secretions in the respiratory tract alongside paralysis of the muscles which control breathing these are profoundly distressing symptoms. Painful blurred vision, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, incontinence, muscle weakness twitching, restlessness, coma and convulsions are all associated with exposure.
This was not an isolated incident. In April 2017 in the rebel held town of Khan Shaykhun in north-western Syria there was well documented use of the highly lethal nerve agent, sarin and this was confirmed following a UN led investigation. The leadership panel of the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons sent a letter to the UN Secretary General summarising in its conclusions that it was confident that the Syrian Arab Republic was responsible for the release of sarin during the attack. The conclusions of the Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to the human rights council of the UN in September 2017 make for the most distressing reading . The commission documented 25 incidents of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic between March 2013 and March 2017 of which 20 were perpetrated by government forces and used primarily against civilians.
Those who claim that we must wait for proof from inspectors should read these reports and watch the footage of the aftermath of these atrocities. Whilst we would all prefer action to be sanctioned at the United Nations, this has been repeatedly blocked by Russia using its veto. To insist on a UN resolution would be in effect to hand this decision to Russia and take no action at all.
No one should think this is a distant situation, far from our shores. The deliberate use of a Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury was not an isolated attack, Alexander Litvinyenko was murdered in Britain on the orders of the Kremlin using a lethal radioactive poison in 2006.
I support the humanitarian action to protect civilians in Syria from further use of chemical weapons. I also feel this sends a strong signal to Russia about their own use of these horrific weapons.
Back to all posts