The photos and videos showing dozens of Syrian people and their children suffocating, slumped to the ground, lifeless, after what is likely to be a chemical attack in Douma, east of Damascus, shook the world this past Saturday.
In the meantime, Syria, the same power being accused of carrying the deadly attack, will assume the presidency of the U.N.’s Conference on Disarmament, the forum which produced the treaty banning chemical weapons, opening in Geneva on March 28.
The Geneva-based organization UN Watch was the first to draw the attention of world leaders to the appointment, which is the result of an automatic rotation between member states. Hillel Neuer, the director of the organization, is calling for ambassadors to walk out of the room while their Syrian counterpart Hussam Edin Aala chairs the forum.
“At a time when Syria is gassing its own men, women, and children to death,” Neuer said in a statement, “to see Syria heading the body that is supposed to protect these victims will simply shock the conscience of humanity.”
Aid groups blamed the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad for the attack, which reportedly killed at least 40 people. This is far from being the first time chemical weapons have been used in the Syrian Civil War. In 2013 the Syrian army allegedly used nerve gases to attack the population, killing 734 people.
Neuer compared the appointment to “putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter.” The outrage is similar to the one sparked in 2013, after Syria was elected to take part in a UNESCO committee on human rights.
The Syrian envoy is scheduled to preside over the conference through June 24.
Simone Somekh is a New York-based author and journalist. He’s lived and worked in Italy, Israel, and the United States.