MOSCOW, May 6 (RIA Novosti) – The United Nations commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Syria has heard testimony that the rebels have used chemical weapons, a leading UN official on Syria said in a recent interview with a Swiss-Italian TV network.
"According to the testimonies that we have collected, the rebels have used chemical weapons, by using sarin gas," Carla Del Ponte, Commissioner of the UN commission to monitor and investigate reported human rights abuses in Syria told Radiotelevisione svizzera.
She said that these accounts came from victims, doctors and field hospitals in neighboring countries, Reuters reported. She gave no further details about when or where sarin gas may have been used.
Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney-general who also served as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, added that the investigation "is a long way from being concluded."
“We need to deepen our investigation, verify and prove these new testimonies, but according to what we have established by this point in time is that it is the opponents of the regime who were using sarin gas,” Del Ponte noted in the interview.
Sarin is a highly toxic nerve agent, which was reportedly first used for military purposes during the Iran–Iraq war in the 1980s. The best-known sarin gas attack was carried out by the members of Aum Shinrikyo group on the Tokyo subway, killing 13 and injuring dozens.
In August 2011, the UN Human Rights Council set up the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to investigate alleged human rights violations in the country. Carla Del Ponte was appointed its commissioner in September 2012.
The Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad and the rebel forces have been trading accusations of using chemical weapons.
Last month, the White House said in a letter to lawmakers that intelligence gathered by the United States, with the help of opposition forces in Syria, shows the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale, but this evidence was later questioned as unclear.
According to recent UN figures, since March 2011, about 70,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war, over 3.6 million people within Syria are classed as “internally displaced,” and over 1.3 million have fled the country.
(Updated with a quote in 5th graph)