Chemical arms watchdog says Syria probe leakers ‘not whistleblowers’

Chemical arms watchdog says Syria probe leakers ‘not whistleblowers’

The world’s chemical watchdog on Thursday slammed two former inspectors who leaked confidential papers questioning the body’s findings into a 2018 chlorine attack in the Syrian town of Douma, saying they “are not whistleblowers”.

“Inspectors A and B are not whistleblowers. They are individuals who could not accept that their views are not backed by evidence,” the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) head Fernando Arias said.

Arias announced an internal probe in late May 2019 to look into the leak of an internal paper that queried the body’s findings into the Douma attack in April 2018, in which around 40 people died.

In November last year Arias again defended the report after a second leak in which WikiLeaks published an email from a member of the team that probed the incident.

That email accused the Hague-based OPCW of altering the original findings of investigators to make the evidence of a chemical seem more conclusive.

Arias, in a scathing conclusion slapped down the two former inspectors’ actions saying “when their views could not gain traction, they took matters into their own hands and breached the obligations to the Organization.”

“Their behavior is even more egregious as they had manifestly incomplete information about the Douma investigation,” he said.

Released in March last year, the final OPCW report said there were “reasonable grounds” to believe toxic chemicals containing “reactive chlorine” had been used in the attack.

It said two cylinders likely containing the chemical had smashed into a housing block in Douma, which was held by rebels at the time.

“I stand by the conclusions of the Douma report,” Arias said, who earlier Thursday briefed the OPCW member states on the matter.
Western powers led by the United States blamed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, unleashing air strikes on regime military installations in response.

Both Syria and Russia however rejected the OPCW report and seized on the leaks to back their insistence that the Douma attack was staged as a pretext for Western military action.

The first leaked “engineering report” by an OPCW member named Ian Henderson said there was a “higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed… rather than being delivered from aircraft.”

Henderson’s assessment was not included in the OPCW official report, but later appeared in May on the website of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media, which regularly questions Western narratives on Syria.

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