The Iraqi regime’s application of chemical weapons is one
of the clear examples of blatant support of the Iraqi Ba’ath regime by
the UN and Western countries since this regime went on step by step
under meaningful silence of international bodies and at last found the
dare to launch chemical attacks on civilian cities and people. This
silence by the UN paved the way for other countries such as the US and
Soviet Union to put no limits on Iraq’s chemical armament and there was
no restrictions on Saddam’s use of mass destruction weapons. These come
despite the fact that there were comprehensive treaties against the use
of chemical weapons in the international arena.
The prohibition of chemical weapons in international treaties
first international treaty on non-application of chemical weapons goes
back to 1675 which prohibits the use of poisonous bullets signed between
France and Germany in Strasburg.
The Brussels convention: in 1874, the Brussels convention was formed on war law and norm. The convention prohibited the use of poison or poisonous weapons as well as the use of weapons or projectiles or material to cause unnecessary suffering.
The Hague statement: in 1899 the peace conference of the Hague was held and led to the signing of the Hague statement which prohibited the use of projectiles that contain poisonous gas.
1925 Geneva protocol: the horror caused
by chemical weapons during the First World War created so much rage
among countries that they decided to ban the application of chemical
weapons for good. This agreement led to the formation of the 1925 Geneva
protocol which prohibited the use of choking gas, poisonous gas, and
other forms of gas as well as microbe approaches to war. Iran joined the
protocol in 1929 and Iraq did the same in 1931 .
The general policy of the United Nations Security Council in relation to Saddam’s chemical crime
Although there were clear laws regarding chemical weapons, the general policy of the United Nations Security Council was a general condemnation of chemical weapons. Instead of acting to its duty, the United Nations Security Council would only review the restrictions. Under the influence of superpowers, the United Nations Security Council not only did not condemn Iraq for using chemical weapons, it announced that it condemned the use of chemical weapons by Iran and Iraq . But Iran has frequently said that it has not used chemical weapons and so far the United Nations Security Council has failed to present documents supporting its claim.
A chronology of Saddam’s chemical attacks on Iran since the black Sunday of Sardasht to the black Friday of Halabja clearly shows how Saddam little by little found the boldness to intensify his attacks.
· The 23rd of Day, 1359 (Iranian calendar) the first report on Iraq’s application of chemical weapons in warfronts near Ahvaz, Dezful and Mimak were received.
· 17th of Mordad, 1361 in Piranshahr
· The Shahrivar of 1361 in Val-Fajr operations in Mrivan, Baneh, and Panjovin
· In 1362 in Kheibar operations in Majnoon islands and the forefronts and roads of Ahvaz and Khorramshahr: the first large-scale chemical attack by Iraq (over 600 were martyred and several thousand of the Iranian forces were chemically affected)
· In 1363 in the Badr operations Iraq used chemical weapons and cyanide. The loss was 1000 martyrs and 7000 injuries.
· 23rd of Bahman 1364 in Valfajr 8 operations in Faw. Iraq again used chemical weapons, wounding 20 thousand and killing 3 thousand other.
· In 1365 in Karbala 5 operations in Shalamche.
· In 1365 in Karbala 8 operations in Khorramshahr
· The chemical bombardment of Halabja
As is evident, the Iraqi regime used the indifference of the United Nations Security Council to create the "Black Friday” of Halabja on 27th and 28th of Esfand, 1366. That catastrophe left over 5 thousand wounded. But the sleeping consciousness of the international community was still not woken and due to the slackness and inefficiency of international organizations and the United Nations Security Council, Saddam continued his crimes until the end of the war.
This is while since 1359 when the first Iraqi chemical weapons against Iranian people and soldiers begun, Iranian officials brought the case to the UN and by the year 1362, several pleads were sent to the UN, when at last a UN delegation came to Iran and after conducting investigations, they confirmed the application of chemical weapons .
But this delegation, when they returned to the UN, they censured the news and reported that in that war, chemical weapons had been used, refraining from saying that Iraq had used the weapons. Sure that countries such as the US would back it in the UN, Iraq continued to use chemical weapons to the end of the war, leading to heavy losses for Iran.
The substantiation of Saddam’s war crimes in international treaties and the UN support
Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, according to international law, was the violation of human law and an instance of war crime. According to Article 8 of the Hague statute, any country’s use of chemical weapons comprises an instant of war crime. Based on conventions of August 12, 1949 of Geneva, such act is considered genocide and crime against humanity. Therefore, the UN and other Western countries’ silence came when Iraq had committed war crimes against Iran.
Although clear expert reports had paved the way for a firm stance by the United Nations Security Council, it chose to keep silent. Until toward the end of the war when Saddam was facing numerous problems to end the war and Western countries no longer could support him, the UN tried to clear itself of charges in another way by issuing Resolution 620.
1. Jamshid Momtaz, International Law of Mass Destruction Weapons: Amir Hossein Ranjbarian, Dadgostar Publication, Tehran, 1998, PP 54,55,56.
2. Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Louise Doswald-Beck, CUSTOMARY INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW, international committee of the red cross, the university of Cambridge, 2005,P: 237, 240, 251, 262 ,290.
3. ICRC,” Memorandum on the Applicability of International Humanitarian Law” ,2004,P:5.