The April 2018 incident in the Damascus suburb was quickly blamed on the Syrian government by the West. Within days, the US, the UK and France launched barrages of cruise missiles in retaliation. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international chemical weapons watchdog, later backed the justification, all but pointing the finger at Syria in its final report, which was released in March.
Now a panel of experts says the report was based on a flawed conclusion and likely deliberately steered toward the West-favored outcome. The accusation is based on evidence and testimony of an OPCW investigator, who came forward with damning evidence that his own organization had breached its mission.
Panel Criticizes ‘Unacceptable Practices’ in the OPCW’s investigation of the Alleged Chemical Attack in Douma, Syria on April 7th 2018 https://t.co/1XD72nlzzq
— Courage Foundation (@couragefound) October 23, 2019
After talking to the whistleblower and examining internal reports, text exchanges and other evidence, the panel was convinced that “key information about chemical analyses, toxicology consultations, ballistics studies, and witness testimonies was suppressed, ostensibly to favor a preordained conclusion,” it said in a statement.
The statement said the OPCW took effort to exclude dissenting investigators and silence their attempts to raise concerns about the report, which is “a right explicitly conferred on inspectors in the Chemical Weapons Convention.” The experts called on the organization to revisit its investigation and allow those not agreeing with the conclusion put in the final report to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal.
The panel convened by the Courage Foundation, which accepts donations for the legal defense of whistleblowers and journalists that report on leaks, includes several prominent specialists and public figures, including José Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat who served as the OPCW’s first Director General before being strong-armed from the office by US superhawk John Bolton.
Bustani said the whistleblower confirmed his doubts about the report, which “seemed incoherent at best” right from the start.
“My hope is that the concerns expressed publicly by the Panel, in its joint consensus statement, will catalyze a process by which the Organization can be resurrected to become the independent and non-discriminatory body it used to be.”
The panel did not make public the name of the whistleblower or any previously unpublished evidence of the OPCW’s alleged misconduct. WikiLeaks, whose editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson was a member of the panel, re-printeda draft engineering assessment penned by an OPCW investigator, which was leaked in May. The document rejects the claim that chlorine cylinders, which were used for delivery of the toxic gas in Douma, had been dropped from the air, which was used as a key argument in accusing the Syrian army for the attack.
The OPCW did not challenge the authenticity of the document, but stood by its conclusions on the Douma incident.
(SOURCE: RUSSIA TODAY)