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Letter on the Syrian chemical weapons’ destruction

To: European Commission
Ms. Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Mairitime Affaires and Fisheries
C/C: Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre,
Mr. Frιdιric Hιbert, Director, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
H.E. Ambassador Αlvaro Marcelo Moerzinger, Chairperson of the Executive Council

Dear Commissionaire Damanaki,
By the present letter we want to express our deep concern regarding the high – or at least unknown – risk stemming from the process of hydrolysis of the Syrian Army’s chemical weapons that are to take place aboard of the US M/V Cape Ray after all Mediterranean states denied providing their land infrastructures for the destruction of the chemicals. Already 82% of the chemical weapons of Syria have been transported and destroyed at highly equipped units far from the Mediterranean Sea.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which will supervise the operation and take part in it during the coming days at open sea between Greece, Italy and Malta does not guarantee the absence of high risk. Furthermore, conducting such a process at sea is not adequately tested in order to satisfactorily assuage fears and concerns expressed by local authorities, local citizens, international and national NGOs both in the Mediterranean and globally. The right to be informed on matters that concern public health is a basic democratic principle, which in the case has been unacceptably ignored as the operation is undertaken in near secrecy.

Given the enormous interest for a clean sea environment and life as well as the protection of maritime resources, national governments and the EU are responsible to take all appropriate measures to minimize such high pollution risks. Conventional and customary international law creates specific obligations to coastal states to take action in view of preventing pollution risks. The Convention of Barcelona and its protocols (especially the one on “Prevention and Emergencies”) create also obligations and liabilities for the EU.

We strongly urge that the EU takes the lead in instigating steps so that all necessary measures to deter the operation are taken, and cooperate with the UN to find the proper solution for a safe destruction of the chemical weapons with minimal risks and according to international law and global ethics.

Konstantinos Tsitselikis
Associate professor, Univeristy of Macedonia
Chairman of the Hellenic League for Human Rights

 

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