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The OPCW mission to Douma is stalling

The fact finding mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has not yet visited Douma and the delay is being questioned.

Published: April 19, 2018, 10:09 am

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    Douma

    The OPCW inspectors are currently held up by the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) which acts as an escourt to any UN-aligned organisation in areas deemed dangerous.

    The Australian police officer, leader of the UNDSS, holding up the investigation, is Peter Drennan, who from 2009 served as Deputy Commissioner National Security with the Australian Federal Police.

    Critics say Drennan may be preventing the OPCW investigation in order to protect British and US allies, since the “chemical attack” has likely been faked according to several journalists, including investigative reporter Robert Fisk, who have visited Douma and interviewed witnesses.

    An anti-Syrian news outlet, the Syrian Observatory in Britain, denied that a “chemical attack” had happened. It reported on April 8 of suffocation after a shelter collapsed due to bombing:

    [I]n among the casualties there are 21 civilians including 9 children and 3 women were killed as a result of suffocation caused by the shelling which destroyed basements of houses as a result of the violence bombardment that stopped about an hour ago on Douma area.

    On Sunday April 8 videos were published of an alleged “chemical attack” in Douma near Damascus in the area under control of Jaish al-Islam, a Salafi terrorist organization financed by Saudi Arabia.

    Videos from the White Helmets reporting the alleged attack were unconvincing, but nevertheless served as evidence for a strike on Syria by the US and its allies, the UK and France.

    A day after the incident, Jaish al-Islam left the area under a ceasefire deal arranged with the help of the Russian military in Syria. Notably, the ceasefire deal does not allow the Syrian army to enter the area, as only the Russian military police is allowed.

    Russian military police found zero evidence of such an event, and the Syrian government has asked the OPCW to launch an investigation into the US allegations.

    Many international news teams have since visited the area where the incident allegedly took place. They also visited the field hospital shown in an “incriminating” video. Doctors at the same hospital firmly deny that any patient had suffered from a chemical attack.

    The cases they had treated, they say, had been from patients with breathing difficulties due to dust inhalation as a result of the bombing.

    On Friday April 13 the OPCW fact finding mission arrived in Damascus, but were held up because on April 14, the US and its allies bombed several locations in Syria.

    While journalists and camera teams have since visited the Douma area without any protection, freely interviewing hospital personal, the OPCW has yet to arrive, citing “security concerns” in the suburb where the alleged incident happened not far from the center of Damascus.

    The Director General of the OPCW Ahmet Üzümcü, a Turkish career diplomat and Turkey’s former Permanent Representative to NATO, issued a statement:

    On 16 April, we received confirmation from the National Authority of the Syrian Arab Republic that, under agreements reached to allow the evacuation of the population in Ghouta, the Syrian military were unable to enter Douma. The security for the sites where the FFM [Fact Finding Mission] plans to deploy was under the control of the Russian Military Police. The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) has made the necessary arrangements with the Syrian authorities to escort the team to a certain point and then for the escort to be taken over by the Russian Military Police. However, the UNDSS preferred to first conduct a reconnaissance visit to the sites, which took place yesterday. FFM team members did not participate in this visit.

    On arrival at Site 1, a large crowd gathered and the advice provided by the UNDSS was that the reconnaissance team should withdraw. At Site 2, the team came under small arms fire and an explosive was detonated. The reconnaissance team returned to Damascus.

    Surprisingly, none of the journalists also present in the same area reported recent shots or explosions in Douma.

    The New York Times noted the long OPCW delay: “[T]he fact that journalists had been able to wander around Douma unmolested raised questions about why it was not deemed safe enough for the investigators to visit.”

    If it becomes evident that no “chemical attack” ever took place in Douma, it would expose the US-led attack on Syria as a reckless and unjustified war crime.

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