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New Chemical Weapons Team to Investigate Atrocities in Syria

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a global watchdog group based in The Hague, has established an investigation and identification team (IIT) to ascertain blame for the use of banned weapons in Syria, and will investigate nine alleged attacks during the country’s civil war, Reuters reported, citing unidentified sources. The team’s creation, stemming from a British proposal, reportedly took place in June during an OPCW special session and was supported by the United States and the European Union. Its founding was opposed by Russia, Iran, Syria and their allies. Until now, the OPCW was merely authorized to say whether chemical attacks occurred, not who perpetrated them. Both Syria and its ally Russia have denied using chemical weapons, however, a United Nations-OPCW joint investigative mechanism (JIM) tasked with assigning blame for chemical weapons attacks, and whose mandate ended in 2017 due to a Russian veto on an extension, found that the Syrian military used both chlorine and the nerve agent sarin as weapons. The new IIT will focus on sites of chemical attacks in which JIM could not identify the perpetrators.