The Assad regime has refused access to a newly-created chemical weapons investigation team formed to identify culprits behind attacks with banned munitions, the organization’s top official said in remarks published on Wednesday.
Member countries of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) voted last year to create the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), a decision that was opposed by Damascus and its ally Russia.
“Syria refuses to recognize the decision and to deal with any of its subsequent implications and effects,” OPCW head Fernando Arias told member states. He said Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faysal Mekdad, had informed the OPCW in writing of the decision not to issue travel visas to members of the investigation team.
“Additionally, I received two letters dated 9 May and 14 May from the vice-minister, informing of Syria’s objection to grant the newly appointed members of the IIT access to any confidential information concerning the Syrian chemical dossier” Arias said.
A joint United Nations-OPCW investigation team (JIM) concluded that Syrian forces used banned nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs in more than 20 occasions. The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons 217 times since December 2012.
The new investigation team was formed after Russia vetoed a resolution to extend the mandate of the JIM in November 2017.
With 193 member states, the OPCW, based in The Hague in the Netherlands, is the U.N.-supported global body established to rid the world of chemical weapons.
The Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians across Syria, the deadliest of which took place in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta in August 2013. The Syrian Coalition stressed that all those responsible for these attacks should be brought to the International Criminal Court.
The Coalition stressed that the orders to use chemical weapons in Syria came from the highest echelons of the Assad regime. Russia repeatedly used the veto on the UN Security Council to prevent any resolution condemning Assad’s war crimes. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)