Chemical weapons watchdog report criticizes leaks

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An independent investigation into leaks that raised questions over the global chemical weapons watchdog’s conclusion that chlorine was used in a notorious 2018 attack in Syria has criticized two former officials responsible for releasing classified information, the organization’s chief said Thursday.

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Director-General Fernando Arias told members that he stands by the conclusions of a Fact-Finding Mission issued on March 1 last year that found “reasonable grounds” that a toxic chemical was used in Douma on April 7, 2018. It said the toxic chemical “was likely molecular chlorine.”

The OPCW did not have a mandate to apportion blame for the attack, that killed about 40 people. The United States, Britain and France blamed Syrian government forces and launched punitive airstrikes. Syria denied responsibility.

Last year, two leaks led to questions about the conclusions and the independence of the organization that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.

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Arias said the independent, external investigation into the leaks carried out between July 2019 and February this year established that the former OPCW officials, identified only as inspectors A and B were “not whistle-blowers.”

“They are individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence. When their view could not gain traction, they took matters into their own hands and committed a breach of their obligations to the organization.”

The investigation into the leaks said the organization’s internal legislation “is being reviewed in order to reduce the risks of future breaches of the confidentiality regime.”

Arias said the two inspectors did not cooperate with the investigation.

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