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27 Jun, 2018 18:30

OPCW granted right to assign guilt for chemical attacks after divisive UK proposal

OPCW granted right to assign guilt for chemical attacks after divisive UK proposal

The UK’s proposal to give the global chemical watchdog the right to assign blame has been passed despite deep divisions. Russia warns the move puts the future of the organization, and thus global security, at risk.

The British envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Peter Wilson, celebrated the outcome of the 82-24 vote on Twitter.

London called a special session of the UN chemical watchdog on Wednesday, arguing that the body should have the authority, not only to investigate whether any alleged chemical attack took place, but also to assign guilt. The British proposal was quickly supported by its Western allies.

Others, however, offered a sobering warning on the state of the international group in the wake of the vote. Moscow was quick to stress that several key OPCW contributors have been dead against the move.

“One can see a colossal split in the organization, both in the electoral groups and on the future of OPCW,” said the head of the Russian delegation, Georgy Kalamanov. “Russia and many of the countries that have spoken against the UK decision have been playing a serious role in the OPCW, starting from financing to the expert support.”

Earlier, Moscow warned that the changes in the OPCW mandate would turn it into a political tool as well as infringe upon the “exclusive prerogatives of the UN Security Council.” Today’s decision comes following a longstanding row between Russia and the West over the probes of the chemical incidents in Syria.

Moscow has repeatedly criticized the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) for mishandling its probes, cherry-picking evidence and using vague wording in its reports. It also argued that the OPCW experts abused their mandate on several occasions as they conducted their investigations “remotely” and in violation of the core principle of ‘chain of custody’ while relying on evidence provided by biased and unreliable sources.

The UK, as well as the US and their allies, accused Moscow of blocking the investigation of chemical incidents in Syria after the JIM’s mandate expired last November, following a number of failed attempts by the UNSC to extend it. London has been openly accusing the Syrian government of launching chemical attacks on civilians, despite no convincing evidence presented.

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