Thursday February 13, 2020
For the past year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been roiled by allegations that it manipulated an investigation to falsely accuse the Syrian government of a chemical weapons attack. An OPCW report released in March 2019 lent credence to claims by Islamist militants and Western governments that the Syrian military killed around 40 civilians with toxic gas in the city of Douma in April 2018. The accusation against Damascus led to US-led military strikes on Syrian government sites that same month.
But leaked internal documents published by Wikileaks show that OPCW inspectors who deployed to Douma rejected the official story, and complained that higher-level officials excluded them from the post-mission process, distorted key evidence, and ignored their findings.
After months of virtual silence, the OPCW has responded with an internal inquiry that lambasts two veteran officials who raised internal objections, attacking their credibility and qualifications. The OPCW’s self-described “independent investigation” describes the pair as rogue, low-level actors who played minor roles in the Douma mission and lacked access to crucial evidence. In a briefing to member states, OPCW Director General Fernando Arias dismissed them as disgruntled ex-employees. The two “are not whistle-blowers,” Arias said. “They are individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence.”