OPCW investigators to begin attributing blame for chemical attacks

Russia has compared the global chemical weapons watchdog to a sinking ship

OPCW investigators to begin attributing blame for chemical attacks

The Fourth Special Session of the OPCW Conference at the World Forum in The Hague, the Netherlands, 27-06-2018. Image: OPCW

The international chemical weapons watchdog has voted in favour of a motion that will see it begin to apportion blame for attacks it is investigating.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was previously restricted to saying whether chemical weapons were used – not who had used them.

However, a motion was brought forward by the UK and supported by 30 countries argued that new powers weer needed to deal with repeated attacks in Syria and elsewhere.

This evening the motion was carried by what the UK's permanent representative to the OPCW, Peter Wilson, described as an “overwhelming majority” of 82 to 24.

A two-thirds majority was needed for it to pass.

It means that, moving forward, whenever chemical weapons use occurs within a member state, “those who were the perpetrators, organisers, sponsors or otherwise involved should be identified.”

The motion also calls for new arrangements to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria by investigating “all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons” wherever the OPCW “determines or has determined that use or likely use occurred.”

At the outset of the conference, OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü warned that there is currently no mechanism to hold states that use chemical weapons fully accountable.

“Chemical weapons use, wherever it occurs, is a serious offence requiring resolute action,” he said.

“If accountability is avoided, the potential re-emergence and acceptance of chemicals as weapons of war and terror will not be deterred.”

The Director-General of the OPCW, Ahmet Üzümcü, gives his opening statement in The Hague, the Netherlands, 27-06-2018. Image: OPCW

The alleged chemical attacks in the Syrian city of Douma in April led the US, UK and France to launch over 100 missiles at the war-torn country in a coordinated operation targeting the Syrian Government’s chemical weapons capabilities.

Russia is an ally of the Syrian Government and Russian president Vladimir Putin said the attack was “in violation of the UN charter and the norms and the principals of international law.”

The UK Government also holds the Russian State responsible for the chemical attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.

Russia was one of the countries to vote against the motion.

Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Georgy Vladimirovich Kalamanov addresses the OPCW Conference at the World Forum in The Hague, the Netherlands, 27-06-2018. Image: OPCW

After the result, the country’s industry minister Georgy Kalamonov compared the OPCW to a sinking ship.

"A lot of the countries that voted against the measure are starting to think about how the organisation will exist and function in the future," he said.

Earlier this month, the OPCW said it is "very likely" that gas was used on civilians in Syria during attacks last year.