Comment by the Information and Press Department on the OPCW Fact Finding Mission report on the alleged incident in Saraqib, Syria, on February 4, 2018

Friday, 18 May 2018 19:00

On May 15, the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) published the report of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) on the alleged incident in Saraqib, in Syria’s Idlib Province, on February 4, 2018. The information presented in this document must be meticulous studied, but even a preliminary analysis suggests a number of questions about its contents.

Unfortunately, the FFM again has relied mostly on materials and evidence provided by the notorious NGO the White Helmets. We have repeatedly caught this pseudo-humanitarian organisation red-handed in the act of spreading disinformation, distorting facts and participating in staged provocations. Quite recently the White Helmets were used in the spectacle that was the alleged chemical attack in Douma (Eastern Ghouta). The scale of their falsifications was graphically illustrated at the joint briefing of Russia and Syria in the OPCW Headquarters on April 26, which was devoted to the exposure of the staged “chemical incident” on April 7 of this year. The materials of the briefing were disseminated as official documents of the 58th session of the OPCW Executive Council. We urge everyone to read them.

The aforementioned FFM report makes the audacious claim that the authenticity of the environmental samples from the alleged site of a chemical attack can be verified for certain with video clips and interrogation of witnesses. Apparently, to justify the fact that the FFM specialists are either unwilling or unable to take part independently in the collection of evidence, the document suggests that the samples received from third persons and the NGO are equal in value to those taken by OPCW experts, if they are supported by relevant photo and video materials.     

This completely contradicts the fundamental principle guiding the FFM’s work  - the so called “chain of custody” that provides for a clear-cut sequence of actions and the preservation of material evidence received by OPCW experts from the moment the sample is taken until it reaches the certified laboratory that will analyse it. According to the FFM’s guidelines, samples taken without the direct participation of OPCW experts cannot be considered primary or secondary evidence.

It is noteworthy that one of the methods of verification mentioned by the report is open source analysis. The report includes 32 citations of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, BBC, CNN and The Washington Times and even a press release of the US Department of State. But why is there no mention of the materials published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website? Or why does it ignore the evidence provided by Syrians of the discovered chemical laboratories of militants or Syrians’ repeated reports of chemical provocations staged by the radicals?

Indicatively, the annex to the report with these citations is entitled “Open source internet links related to the Al-Lataminah incident.” Note, this is a report on Saraqib. The report was clearly a rush job, made from an existing template provided by past reports, in particular the March 2017 incident in Al-Lataminah.

Thus, it is obvious that the FFM did not set itself the aim of conducting an independent and comprehensive investigation of the incident in Saraqib. Judging by everything, its report was drafted with only one goal in mind – to discredit the legitimate Government of the Syrian Arab Republic on the basis of fake evidence provided by the opponents of Damascus. This only plays into the hands of terrorist organisations operating in Syria, encouraging them to stage more chemical attacks.

We categorically disagree with the high appraisal of the FFM report given by US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert, which should be considered in light of the above.

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