The whistleblower is claiming that the international chemical weapons watchdog misrepresented facts, selectively omitted observations, and undermined its own credibility with the findings it released last year.
Reports of a chemical attack in Syria last year, which the US and its allies were quick to blame on the Assad government, is now being called into question, after emails were released from a whistleblower within the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The whistleblower is claiming that the international chemical weapons watchdog misrepresented facts and undermined its own credibility with the findings it released last year.
WikiLeaks published an email from an unnamed investigator with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons who was part of the fact-finding mission into reports of a chemical attack in Syria. He sent a message to his superiors in which he expressed grave concerns about the report that was released to the public.
The investigator claimed he was struck by how much the modified report misrepresented the facts. He said many of the facts and observations from the team on the ground were “selectively omitted” from the final report. And he argued that an unintended bias had been introduced, which undermined the report’s credibility.
Reports of a chemical attack that killed dozens in Douma, Syria, were made on April 7, 2018. The US and its allies were quick to place the blame on the Syrian government before investigators from the OPCW even had a chance to step foot in the area.
Just one week later, the US, the UK, and France, came together to launch more than 100 airstrikes against what they called “chemical weapons facilities” in Syria on April 14. At the time, Leaders from the three countries claimed they had sufficient evidence that the government of Syrian President Assad was behind the chemical attack.
But Assad has denied any involvement, and the letter from an investigator who was on the ground in Douma raises questions about just how much influence other countries had in the final report from the OPCW.
While the organization claimed the chemical attack was carried out using canisters that were dropped from above, which would have pointed to a culprit with an air force, reports have noted that it took investigators from the OPCW nearly two weeks to reach the site of the reported attack, which left plenty of time for the evidence to be tampered with.
In his letter, dated June 22, 2018, the investigator noted that the redacted report that was made public states that the gas was likely released from the cylinders. But the original report purposely emphasized the fact that, although the cylinders might have been the source of the suspected chemical release, there was insufficient evidence to affirm this.
He also alleged that the changes were made at the request of the Office of the Director General. And as the letter was released during the organization’s annual conference, the director general used his opening speech to express his confidence in the report that was released.
“It is in the nature of any thorough inquiry for individuals in a team to express subjective views. When some of these diverse views continue to circulate in public discussion—I would like to reiterate that I stand by the impartial and professional conclusions reached by the fact-finding mission,” said OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias.
The director general did not specifically address the letter that was released, and he also did not say whether the claims made by the whistleblower were accurate, or if the report has been heavily doctored.