Chemical weapons watchdog report criticises leaks

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said inspectors 'took matters into their own hands'

FILE PHOTO: People walk in a street during a media tour in Douma near Damascus, Syria April 23, 2018. REUTERS/ Ali Hashisho/File Photo
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The world's chemical watchdog on Thursday hit out at two former inspectors who leaked confidential papers questioning the body's findings into a 2018 chlorine attack in the Syrian town of Douma.

"Inspectors A and B are not whistleblowers. They are individuals who could not accept that their views are not backed by evidence," the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) head Fernando Arias said.

"When their views could not gain traction they took matters into their own hands and breached their obligations to the organisation," he said.

Mr Arias said he stands by the conclusions of a fact-finding mission issued on March 1 last year that found “reasonable grounds" that a toxic chemical was used in Douma on April 7, 2018. It said the toxic chemical “was likely molecular chlorine.”

The OPCW did not have a mandate to apportion blame for the attack, that killed about 40 people. The United States, Britain and France blamed Syrian government forces and launched punitive airstrikes. Syria denied responsibility.

Last year, two leaks led to questions about the conclusions and the independence of the organisation that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.

"Their behaviour is even more egregious as they had manifestly incomplete information about the Douma investigation," Mr Arias said.

"Therefore, as could be expected, their conclusions are erroneous, uninformed, and wrong," he added.