OPCW Releases Second Report by Investigation and Identification Team

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released today the findings of the second report by the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT). The IIT is responsible for identifying the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic where the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) has determined that chemical weapons have been used or likely used in Syria. The IIT released its first report on 8 April 2020.

The IIT’s second report reiterates its mandate, the legal and practical challenges of its work, and the findings of the investigation focusing on the incident in Saraqib, Syrian Arab Republic, on 4 February 2018. The IIT’s investigation and analysis included a comprehensive review of all the information obtained including: interviews with persons who were present in the relevant places at the time of the incidents, analysis of samples and remnants collected at the sites of the incidents, review of the symptomatology reported by casualties and medical staff, examination of imagery, including satellite images, and extensive consultation of experts. The IIT also obtained topographic analysis of the area in question and gas dispersion modelling to corroborate accounts from witnesses and victims. The investigation relied on relevant FFM report as well as on samples and other material obtained by the Technical Secretariat.

The report reached the conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that, at approximately 21:22 on 4 February 2018, a military helicopter of the Syrian Arab Air Force under the control of the Tiger Forces hit eastern Saraqib by dropping at least one cylinder. The cylinder ruptured and released chlorine over a large area, affecting 12 named individuals.

Background

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) is responsible for identifying the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. The IIT identifies and reports on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons in those instances in which the OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) determines or has determined that use or likely use occurred, and cases for which the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has not identified the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria.

The IIT is comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of staff, which includes experienced investigators, analysts and a legal adviser who are led by a Coordinator. The team conducts its activities in an impartial and objective manner. The IIT is part of the OPCW Technical Secretariat and functions under the authority of the OPCW Director-General. The Technical Secretariat provides regular reports on its investigations to the OPCW’s Executive Council and to the United Nations Secretary-General for their consideration.

The OPCW Technical Secretariat established the IIT as mandated by the decision of the Conference of the States Parties titled Addressing the Threat from Chemical Weapons Use (C-SS-4/DEC.3) dated 27 June 2018.

As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW, with its 193 Member States, oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997, it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

Over 98% of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

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