Magazine article Arms Control Today

OPCW Granted Mandate to Place Blame

Magazine article Arms Control Today

OPCW Granted Mandate to Place Blame

Article excerpt

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will begin investigating and attributing responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria following an 82-24 vote at a special meeting of OPCW member states on June 26-27 in The Hague.

The United Kingdom and 11 other countries requested the special session in a May 29 letter, and more than 64 countries approved the request in early June. The special session was only the fourth in the organization's 21year history. A French-led coalition of 34 countries, which seeks to increase accountability for chemical weapons use, first called for the special session during its May 18 meeting in Paris.

Although the OPCW has been investigating suspected chemical weapons use in Syria through an investigative body called the Fact-Finding Mission, it was not previously mandated to assign blame for attacks. The body that had attributed responsibility, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), ceased operations after Russia blocked a proposed extension of its UN Security Council mandate last November. (See ACT, December 2017.)

The OPCW mission released a report June 13 determining that chlorine and sarin were very likely used as chemical weapons in Ltamenah, Syria, on March 24 and 25, 2017. "This OPCW report underscores the urgency of establishing, as swiftly as possible, a new mechanism to determine those responsible for these attacks," the French Foreign Ministry stated in a June 13 press release. A mission report on the use of chemical weapons in an early April 2018 attack in Douma that killed dozens is expected imminently. …

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