Whistleblowers Confront OPCW Leadership’s Attacks & Cover-up in Douma

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by Aaron Maté, Consortium News:

In two letters obtained by The Grayzone, a pair of chemical weapons inspectors respond to a recent inquiry dismissing them as rogue actors, Aaron Mate reports. 

Two whistleblowing inspectors at the center of an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) cover-up scandal are demanding that their suppressed findings get a fair, transparent, and scientific hearing. In formal letters to the OPCW director-general, the two veteran officials also refuted the OPCW’s leadership’s efforts to impugn their credibility.

“Why would a pair of the top Inspection Team Leaders, both with impeccable records… suddenly ‘go rogue’?” wrote one whistleblower in his letter.

“Why would we risk so much?” asked the other, answering, “Something had gone wrong inside the OPCW.”

Both inspectors were part of the team that deployed to Syria to investigate allegations of a chemical weapons attack in the eastern Damascus suburb of Douma in April 2018. The U.S. government accused the Syrian government of a chemical attack, justifying missile strikes on the country by Washington and European allies.

But the inspectors in Douma found evidence that raised serious doubts that a chemical attack ever occurred, and which pointed instead to the staging of the incident by anti-Assad extremists. Their findings were suppressed by OPCW leaders who re-wrote their initial report, then excluded the investigators from the ensuing process.

The letters by the two whistleblowers are a response to a recent OPCW inquiry that dismissed them as rogue actors “who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence,” and which baselessly accused them of “deliberate and premeditated breaches of confidentiality.”

The pair of veteran inspectors are described by the OPCW as “Inspector A” and “Inspector B.” The letters formally addressed to OPCW Director-General General Fernando Arias were obtained by The Grayzone and are accessible below:

Inspector A is Ian Henderson, a South African engineer and veteran OPCW official. Henderson authored a detailed engineering assessment of two gas cylinders found at the scene of the alleged attacks in Douma.

The OPCW’s final March 2019 report concluded that the cylinders were likely dropped from the air, however, Henderson found that there was “a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed” – presumably by opposition militants in Douma. The OPCW’s final report omitted this conclusion.

Henderson’s findings came to light after they were leaked to a group of dissident British academics, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, which published his report in May 2019. Both Henderson and Inspector B deny leaking the study, and the OPCW inquiry does not claim that they did.

Inspector B is another veteran OPCW official and chemical weapons expert who has sought to remain anonymous. “B” played a senior role in the OPCW’s Douma probe as the chief author of the Douma team’s initial report. Later on, higher-level officials took control of the process and excluded his most essential conclusions.

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