OPCW Condemns Syria’s Repeated Use of Chemical Weapons

Office of the Spokesperson

On April 21, 2021 in The Hague, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Conference of the State Parties adopted a historic decision in response to the Assad regime’s continued use and possession of chemical weapons in violation of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and its failure to complete the measures set out in the OPCW Executive Council’s July 2020 decision.

This decision fulfills the recommendation made by the Executive Council in response to the April 2020 findings of the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), which identified that the Syrian Arab Air Force was responsible for three chemical weapons attacks involving sarin and chlorine in March 2017 in the northern Syrian town of Ltamenah.  The IIT has since issued an additional report of Syria’s use of chemical weapons in a separate instance, which adds to a robust body of evidence by other international investigative bodies that the regime has repeatedly used these weapons on its own people. The United States commends the OPCW staff for its thorough, expert, and professional work in producing these reports.  The United States itself assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least 50 times since acceding to the CWC in 2013.

The decision condemns Syria’s use of chemical weapons and suspends certain of its rights and privileges under the Convention until the OPCW Director-General reports to the Council that Syria has completed the measures requested in the Executive Council’s July 2020 decision.  In that decision, the Council requested that Syria declare any chemical weapons it continues to possess as well as its chemical weapons production facilities and other related facilities.  It also requested that Syria resolve all outstanding issues regarding the initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile and program.  This is the first time such action has been taken against a country at the OPCW. A copy of the decision will be provided to the United Nations Security Council and to the United Nations General Assembly.

Along with the international community, the United States urges the Assad regime to cooperate with the OPCW, to declare and destroy its remaining stockpile, to renounce its chemical weapons program, and to comply with its obligations under the CWC.

The United States welcomes the OPCW’s decision and applauds the international community’s continued commitment to upholding the international norm against the use of chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons by any state presents an unacceptable security threat to all states.  As demonstrated today, the international community will continue to pursue accountability for the use of chemical weapons, for which there can be no impunity.

Text of the Decision and additional information is available here: https://www.opcw.org/media-centre/news/2021/04/conference-states-parties-adopts-decision-suspend-certain-rights-and

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    Today, the Attorneys General of Michigan and Wisconsin filed for permission to join the antitrust lawsuit filed by the United States and eleven other state Attorneys General against monopolist Google. This follows a similar recent motion by the California Attorney General to join the lawsuit on December 11, 2020.
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  • Former Air Force Contractor Pleads Guilty to Illegally Taking 2,500 Pages of Classified Information
    In Crime News
    A former contractor with the U.S. Air Force pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio today to illegally taking approximately 2,500 pages of classified documents.
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  • Science & Tech Spotlight: Vaccine Safety
    In U.S GAO News
    Why this Matters Safe vaccines are critical to fighting diseases, from polio to COVID-19. Research shows that the protection provided by U.S. licensed vaccines outweighs their potential risks. However, misinformation and unjustified safety concerns can cause people to delay or refuse vaccination, which may increase preventable deaths and prolong negative social and economic impacts. The Science What is it? A vaccine is generally considered safe when the benefits of protecting an individual from disease outweigh the risks from potential side effects (fig. 1). The most common side effects stem from the body's immune reaction and include swelling at the injection site, fever, and aches. Figure 1. Symptoms of polio and side effects of the polio vaccine. A vaccine is generally considered safe if its benefits (preventing disease) outweigh its risks (side effects). In rare cases, some vaccines may cause more severe side effects. For example, the vaccine for rotavirus—a childhood illness that can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration, and even death—can cause intestinal blockage in one in 100,000 recipients. However, the vaccine is still administered because this very rare side effect is outweighed by the vaccine's benefits: it saves lives and prevents an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 childhood hospitalizations in the U.S. each year. The two messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines authorized for COVID-19—a disease that contributed to more than 415,000 American deaths between January 2020 and January 2021—can cause severe allergic reactions. However, early safety reporting found that these reactions have been extremely rare, with only about five cases per 1 million recipients, according to data from January 2021 reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In general, side effects from vaccines are less acceptable to the public than side effects from treatments given to people who already have a disease. What is known? Vaccine developers assess safety from early research, through laboratory and animal testing, and even after the vaccine is in use (fig. 2). Researchers may rely on previous studies to inform future vaccine trials. For example, safety information from preclinical trials of mRNA flu vaccine candidates in 2017 allowed for the acceleration of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine development. Vaccine candidates shown to be safe in these preclinical trials can proceed to clinical trials in humans. In the U.S., clinical trials generally proceed through three phases of testing involving increasing numbers of volunteers: dozens in phase 1 to thousands in phase 3. Although data may be collected over years, most common side effects are identified in the first 2 months after vaccination in clinical trials. After reviewing safety and other data from vaccine studies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may license a vaccine to be marketed in the U.S. There are also programs to expedite—but not bypass—development and review processes, such as a priority review designation, which shortens FDA’s goal review time from 10 to 6 months. Safety monitoring continues after licensing. For example, health officials are required to report certain adverse events—such as heart problems—following vaccination, in order to help identify potential long-term or rare side effects that were not seen in clinical trials and may or may not be associated with the vaccine. Figure 2. Vaccine safety is assessed at every stage: development through post-licensure. Following a declared emergency, FDA can also issue emergency use authorizations (EUA) to allow temporary use of unlicensed vaccines if there is evidence that known and potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh known and potential risks, among other criteria. As of January 2021, two COVID-19 vaccines had received EUAs, after their efficacy and short-term safety were assessed through large clinical trials. However, developers must continue safety monitoring and meet other requirements if they intend to apply for FDA licensure to continue distribution of these vaccines after the emergency period has ended. What are the knowledge gaps? One knowledge gap that can remain after clinical trials is whether side effects or other adverse events may occur in certain groups. For example, because clinical trials usually exclude certain populations, such as people who are pregnant or have existing medical conditions, data on potential adverse events related to specific populations may not be understood until vaccines are widely administered. In addition, it can be difficult to determine the safety of new vaccines if outbreaks end suddenly. For example, vaccine safety studies were hindered during the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic when a large increase in the number of cases was followed by a sharp decrease. This disrupted the clinical trials of Ebola vaccine candidates, because the trials require many infected and non-infected people. Furthermore, a lack of understanding and/or misinformation about the steps taken to ensure the safety of vaccines hinders accurate public knowledge about safety concerns, which may cause people to delay or refuse vaccination. This resulting hesitancy may, in turn, increase deaths, social harm, and economic damage. Opportunities Continuing and, where necessary, improving existing vaccine safety practices offers the following opportunities to society: Herd immunity. Widespread immunity in a population, acquired in large part through safe and effective vaccines, can slow the spread of infection and protect those most vulnerable. Health care improvements. Vaccinations can reduce the burden on the health care system by reducing severe symptoms that require individuals to seek treatment. Eradication. Safe vaccination programs, such as those combatting smallpox, may eliminate diseases to the point where transmission no longer occurs. Challenges There are a number of challenges to ensuring safe vaccines: Public confidence. Vaccine hesitancy, in part due to misinformation or historic unethical human experimentation, decreases participation in clinical trials, impeding identification of side effects across individuals with different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Mutating viruses. Some viruses, such as those that cause the flu or COVID-19, may mutate rapidly and thus may require new or updated vaccines, for which ongoing safety monitoring is important. Long-term and rare effects. Exceedingly rare or long-term effects may not be identified until after vaccines have been widely administered. Further study is needed to detect any such effects and confirm they are truly associated with the vaccine. Policy Context & Questions What steps can policymakers take to improve public trust and understanding of the process of assessing vaccine safety? How can policymakers convey the social importance of vaccines to protect the general public and those who are most vulnerable? How can policymakers leverage available resources to support ongoing vaccine development and post-licensure safety monitoring? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • North Carolina Sport Supplement Company and Its Owner Plead Guilty to Unlawful Distribution of Steroid-like Drugs
    In Crime News
    A North Carolina resident and his sport supplement company pleaded guilty today to a felony charge relating to the introduction of unapproved new drugs into interstate commerce, the Department of Justice announced.
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  • National Day of the Federated States of Micronesia
    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Travel
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • United States Files False Claims Act Complaint Against Drug Maker Teva Pharmaceuticals Alleging Illegal Kickbacks
    In Crime News
    The United States has filed a False Claims Act complaint against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and Teva Neuroscience Inc. (Teva), alleging that they illegally paid the Medicare co-pays for their multiple sclerosis (MS) product, Copaxone, through purportedly independent foundations that the companies used as conduits in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute, the Department of Justice announced today. 
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  • Justice Department And Indian Authorities Announce Enforcement Actions Against Technical-Support Fraud Scheme Targeting Seniors
    In Crime News
    A federal court has ordered an individual and 5 companies to stop engaging in a technical-support fraud scheme that is alleged to have defrauded hundreds of elderly and vulnerable U.S. victims, the Department of Justice announced today. 
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  • ‘All too frequent tragedies demand action to improve judicial security,’ Judge tells Judicial Conference
    In U.S Courts
    “Four federal judges and three family members have been killed since 1979. These horrific tragedies must stop,” Judge David W. McKeague told the Judicial Conference of the United States today.
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  • Guyana Travel Advisory
    In Travel
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Political Prisoners in Belarus Should Be Released
    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Human Health, Resources and Services
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  • Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Nevada to End Discriminatory Policies Against Inmates with HIV and Inmates with Disabilities
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today reached a settlement agreement with Nevada to ensure that inmates with HIV are not illegally segregated or otherwise discriminated against on the basis of HIV status and that inmates with disabilities are provided an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) programs.
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  • Remarks at the Fifth Session of the UN Environment Assembly Leadership Dialogue
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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