‘Affordable grounds’ to imagine Syrian Authorities was behind lethal chlorine fuel assault on Douma: OPCW report

Fernando Arias, Director-Basic of the UN-backed OPCW, mentioned the findings are specified by the third report of an Investigation and Identification Team tasked with ascertaining the perpetrators of particular cases of chemical weapons use in Syria.

In keeping with the report, he mentioned, there may be proof that, on 7 April 2018, a minimum of one Syrian air power helicopter – working beneath the management of the Authorities’s “Tiger Forces” – departed Dumayr airbase and dropped two yellow chlorine cylinders, hitting two residential buildings.

Mr. Arias appeared by way of videolink, alongside Santiago Oñate Laborde, head of the Investigation and Identification Group, whose presence – and the credibility of the staff he leads – is the topic of sturdy objections by a number of Council members.

‘Deadly’ incident in Douma

Recounting the occasions that doubtless occurred on 7 April 2018, Mr. Arias mentioned the helicopter left the airbase between 19:10 and 19:40 native time, and dropped the chlorine fuel cylinders quickly after.

Some people within the residential buildings sought refuge within the basement, pondering that location would supply higher safety from the traditional air strikes that had been occurring on the time.

Others had been conscious of the chemical’s presence and, understanding it was heavier than air, moved to increased flooring of the constructing to attempt to discover security.

Nevertheless, mentioned the Director-Basic, each the basement – the place the fuel expanded – and the higher flooring, the place the cylinder was releasing fuel in excessive focus, “had been deadly locations to remain”.

Fernando Arias (on screen), Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), briefs Security Council members on the situation in Syria.

UN Photograph/Loey Felipe

Fernando Arias (on display), Director-Basic of the Group for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), briefs Safety Council members on the state of affairs in Syria.

Figuring out perpetrators

Mr. Arias famous that the brand new report elaborates on the conclusions reached by an OPCW fact-finding mission in 2019, particularly that top concentrations of chlorine fuel had been the supply of the tragedy in Douma.

The Investigation and Identification Group took over that work and carried out its personal analysis between January 2021 and December 2022.

Past the Douma incident, it has recognized the Syrian armed forces because the perpetrators of a number of different chemical weapons assaults.

“The proof collected and analyzed not solely validated and corroborated [the fact-finding mission’s] conclusions, it additionally refuted all different alleged situations,” mentioned the Director-Basic.

Highest requirements

Recalling that each report produced by the OPCW follows the very best requirements and greatest practices utilized by worldwide investigative our bodies to succeed in stable conclusions, Mr. Arias mentioned that the Group’s conclusions had been primarily based on evaluation of numerous, quite a few items of proof.

That features witness testimony, medical information, chemical and ballistic research, overseas experience, laptop modelling, satellite tv for pc imagery and images, amongst different sources.

Emphasizing that the staff shouldn’t be a judicial physique and lacks the authority to assign particular person prison duty, he mentioned its mandate is somewhat to ascertain the info and establish the perpetrators.

The report is now in your arms,” he informed the Security Council, including that will probably be as much as the UN and the worldwide group to take additional steps or actions deemed crucial.

Alternate situations

Santiago Oñate Laborde, Coordinator of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Group, echoed help for his staff’s impartiality and cautious methodology.

Noting that it depends on the voluntary cooperation of all States events to the Chemical Weapons Convention – which incorporates Syria – he mentioned they’re anticipated to supply entry to areas being investigated, in addition to related data, which Syria has largely didn’t do.

As a part of its work, the staff thought-about the positions expressed by Syria and its companions concerning the Douma incident, together with the situation that it was staged by terrorists with help from Western States.

Mr. Laborde mentioned that, after analyzing varied hypotheses, these situations had been dominated out, as they weren’t supported by any proof.

‘Hazard to us all’

Additionally briefing the Council on Tuesday was Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Excessive Consultant for Disarmament Affairs, who recommended the OPCW for its skilled and neutral efforts to uphold the worldwide norm in opposition to using chemical weapons.

She mentioned the group’s efforts to make clear excellent points on Syria’s preliminary and subsequent declarations on its chemical weapons programme – first requested in 2013, when the Council mandated its full elimination – have as soon as once more not progressed since her last briefing, in January.

In response to the stalemate, OPCW not too long ago deployed a “decreased” staff to conduct “restricted in-country actions” in Syria.

“There may be an pressing must not solely establish, however to carry accountable, all those that would dare to make use of chemical weapons in violation of worldwide legislation,” she pressured, describing any such actions as unacceptable and the absence of accountability as a “hazard to us all”.


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