Talking on Russia Today, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, one of those leading the UN Investigation into the alleged chemical attacks in West and East Ghouta argued that autopsies of the victims were unnecessary as “A dead body can’t tell you anything.”
Notwithstanding the dramatic agreement between Russia and the USA, the UN investigation into what happened in Ghouta on August 21st is a highly important and should be conducted in a thorough, professional and transparent fashion. This is particularly the case as the facts of the incident are strongly disputed, with some arguing the Assad government is to blame, whilst others argue the incident is likely a false flag attack.
Whilst recognizing the difficulties faced by Professor Ake Sellstrom and his team, there are clearly some major problems with the report and the way the inspectors have conducted their investigation. Examples include the inspector’s dependence on the rebels to lead them to possibly contaminated sites and the confusing writing of the initial report which gives prominence to two rocket azimuths as we have examined and which has opened the door for Ken Roth’s Human Rights Watch, the New York Times and other media outlets to interpret parts of the report as damning of the Syrian regime.
In a new development, Angela Kane, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, a UN career diplomat who has played a leading role in the UN investigation, was interviewed by Oksana Boyko of Russia Today for the her programme “Worlds Apart.”
Boyko, who adopts a more challenging style than many journalists, asked Kane if the UN Inspection Team had requested access to bodies of victims of the alleged attack in East and West Ghouta, or indeed seen any of the bodies, to which Kane gave the following answer:
“No they didn’t, and I’ll tell you why, because there were so many victims who are still alive that there was really no need to exhume bodies and basically take tissue from them.”
Now, according to its initial report, the UN Mission was,“guided by the United Nations Guidelines and Procedures for the timely and efficient investigation of reports of the possible use of chemical and bacteriological (biological) or toxin weapons (A/44/561).”
If we look at these UN procedures they indicate (p.29): “The Team should, when proper and appropriate, conduct post-mortem examinations of victims of the alleged CBT attack and collect post-mortem samples for further examination either directly to or, in special circumstances, from attending medical personnel.”
Moreover, in Appendix VIII on ‘Sampling procedures for biomedical samples,’ it is stated in item 5:
Human post-mortem organ and tissue samples (30 grams x 3) should be placed in a sterile container in individual, sealable bags, and refrigerated immediately; samples to include liver, spleen, lung, subcutaneous fat, cerebral spinal fluid. Kidney, heart and brain; in addition, at least two mediastinal lymph nodes should be collected.
However, according to Kane, “We also had complete case history, meaning that the victims were able to tell you they were effected, what they felt, what were the symptoms, which is much more powerful than taking tissues from a body.”
Kane’s words have already given rise to unfortunate speculation that she may be more interested in the propaganda impact of the report than in scientific discovery. Boyko asked whether she had been told the bodies had all been buried, as it was important to determine the actualities of the attack.
Kane replied: “A dead body can’t tell you anything, can’t tell you how the person died, can’t tell you how the person was affected, how the person suffered. A living person can tell you that and that is the case history that is basically well-documents and also preserved and we did not ask for bodies to be exhumed, we assumed that they had been buried simply because that’s a Muslim tradition to bury people very quickly and as I mentioned, it was extremely hot at the time we were at Damascus. Bit at the time when there are so many victims alive who can tell the story that goes with the samples and the tissues that they took, there is no need to exhume any bodies.”
Kane’s viewpoint appears to be at odds with writers in the New Scientist who claimed in August, “If the inspectors do gain access, the first order of business will be to collect physiological samples from the living victims and the bodies of dead ones. These could include tissue, blood, urine, hair and skin samples. If they were able, full post-mortems of the victims would be useful.”
Speaking for the UN, Kane also made clear in the interview that “We do not know how many people died.”
It is not clear from the report that any attempt has been made by the investigators to ascertain the estimated number of fatalities, number of hospitalized victims or other victims – but if there has not been, this should be fully explained as it appears to be a major omission in ascertaining the facts of the matter.