On the 8th of April this year the management of the Technical Secretariat (TS) of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) distributed the first report of the so-called "Investigation and Identification Team" on the chemical incidents in the town of Al Lataminah (Ltamenah), Syria, on 24, 25 and 30 March 2017.
We reiterate once again that the decisions to establish the IIT within the OPCW and fund it from the Organization's regular budget are illegitimate. Such decisions were made in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Activity of this quasi-prosecutor structure, which is dominated by representatives of Western countries, encroaches on the exclusive powers of the UN Security Council and is aimed at solution of odious political tasks to discredit legally elected authorities of Syria. Russia does not intend to cooperate with the IIT or finance its activities.
A clear indication of the biased nature of the IIT report was the fact that a day before its official publication, there had already been an article in the British newspaper «The Guardian» indicating that this OPCW document identified the Government of Syria as responsible for the chemical attacks. A legitimate question arises: how and on what grounds did the Western media gain access to this classified information before it became available to OPCW member States? Clarification in this regard would be welcomed from the management of the OPCW Technical Secretariat.
The IIT report will be thoroughly studied in Russia at the expert level. This will take some time. However, one can already state that there is no difference with the vicious principles of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission in Syria (FFM) and the former OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM). They have remained the same in the IIT:
- materials and evidence are collected remotely, mainly from groups opposing the Syrian Government;
- official Damascus's information about the opposition's chemical crimes is ignored;
- investigations are conducted in flagrant violation of the provisions of the CWC, without respecting the key principle of fulfilling procedures to ensure preservation of physical evidence (so-called “chain of custody”), which, inter alia, requires the evidence to be collected on site and exclusively by OPCW specialists;
- absence of adequate criteria to select witnesses and assess the admissibility of their testimony.
The unsubstantiated reports of the FFM and JIM on the chemical incidents in the same Al-Lataminah, as well as in places located in the surrounding areas such as Khan Shaykhun, Saraqib and other localities, are an indisputable proof of all these violations.
For the sake of clarity, we present for reference relevant materials prepared by the specialists of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
With regard to the FFM's investigations in Al-Lataminah, we further note the following circumstances.
The FFM report on the incident of the 30th of March 2017 openly states that "the majority of sources consisted of news media, blogs, and the websites of various non-governmental organisations». There are fundamental inconsistencies in the analysis of environmental and biomedical samples. Traces of sarin are present everywhere ("soil collected under metal piece, large metal piece, other pieces"), but there is no evidence of its presence in biomedical samples.
The report on the March 25, 2017 incident on alleged use of chlorine indicates that a set of organochlorine compounds was found by designated laboratories in samples taken at the hospital premises. However, most of these compounds are antiseptics and related chemical products, i.e. their presence in these samples is understandable from the point of view of regular disinfection activities in such health facilities.
In the incidents of 24 and 30 March 2017, where sarin was used, according to the FFM, the crater formed by the explosion does not correspond in its shape to the crater normally formed by an explosion of an aerial chemical munition, and suspiciously resembles a crater, specially prepared in advance from the alleged explosion of the so-called "chemical aerial bomb", simulated by the "White Helmets" in Khan Shaykhun 10 days later.
It should also be noted that despite different meteorological, geographical, ballistic and other conditions, the results of analysis of samples from Al Lataminah and Khan Shaykhun are almost identical.
It is crystal clear that the activities of the IIT, like those of the FFM, are aimed at fulfilling the political order of a narrow group of States. This was clearly demonstrated by the falsified report on the "White Helmets" chemical provocation in Douma on April 7, 2018, which served as a pretext for the U.S., the United Kingdom and France to launch a missile attack on the territory of a sovereign State in violation of the UN Charter and fundamental principles of international law.
The IIT does not even hide its mission: this structure is intended to assist not only the governing bodies of the OPCW, but also "courts and tribunals, whether at the domestic, regional or international level", including the notorious so-called «International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution» in Syria. This is yet another flagrant violation of the CWC provisions and, in effect, is transforming the OPCW into an instrument of political pressure from the U.S. and its allies on governments they do not like.
As a result, we state with regret that the OPCW reputation as an authoritative expert body in the field of chemical disarmament has actually been sacrificed to the Middle East geopolitical ambitions of a small group of countries.