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9 Apr, 2020 00:32

OPCW points finger at Syrian government for 2017 chemical attacks amid whistleblowers scandal

OPCW points finger at Syrian government for 2017 chemical attacks amid whistleblowers scandal

The OPCW has issued its first report explicitly blaming Syria’s government for chemical attacks on civilians, pointing to three incidents in 2017 and saying there’re “reasonable grounds” to believe the air force was responsible.

“Attacks of such a strategic nature would have only taken place on the basis of orders from the higher authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic military command,” Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) coordinator Santiago Oñate-Laborde said. In the end, the ITT “was unable to identify any other plausible explanation,” he added.

The chemical weapons watchdog maintains that Syrian Arab Air Force pilots flying a Sukhoi Su-22 military plane dropped a sarin bomb in southern Ltamenah on March 24, 2017. On March 25, the OPCW claims, a helicopter belonging to the Syrian Arab Air Force dropped a chlorine cylinder on the Ltamenah hospital which went through the roof and ruptured. Another bomb containing Sarin was dropped in southern Ltamenah on March 30 by an Su-22 military plane, the report said.

OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias noted in a statement that the IIT is “not a judicial or quasi-judicial body with the authority to assign individual criminal responsibility.” It is now up to the Executive Council and the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the United Nations Secretary-General, and the international community as a whole “to take any further action they deem appropriate and necessary.”

Also on rt.com Fourth OPCW whistleblower says staff ‘frightened into silence’ as watchdog brought into ‘shameful disrepute’ over Douma probe

While the mainstream media will likely take the latest claims from the OPCW entirely at face value, the new report comes as the watchdog is embroiled in a major whistleblower scandal over alleged inconsistencies in a previous probe into a separate “chemical attack” in Douma in 2018, which at the time was used to justify US, British and French airstrikes on Syria.

But two former senior OPCW inspectors had revealed that the watchdog had tried to cover up inconvenient evidence in the Douma investigation, which did not suit the mainstream Damascus-blaming story. Veteran inspector Ian Henderson and another former employee known as ‘Alex’ challenged the organization’s narrative which too strongly implied the government’s responsibility, but the OPCW has since tried to discredit them.

In mid-March, a fourth whistleblower came forward to support their claim, saying that other employees had been “frightened into silence.” 

Also on rt.com OPCW whistleblowers wrote to watchdog chief, say it ‘defies all logic’ that they’d ‘go rogue’ for no reason

Henderson, who led the probe on the ground in Douma, had concluded that cylinders were likely manually placed on the ground, indicating the attack could have been staged by anti-government militias to frame the Syrian government — but his evidence was dismissed without explanation.

The fourth whistleblower said Henderson and ‘Alex’ were “trying to protect the integrity of the organization which has been hijacked and brought into shameful disrepute.”

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