Chemical weapons Syria

Åke Sellström’s final report on chemical weapons attacks in Syria handed over today

Åke Sellström’s final report on the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria was handed over to the UN Secretary-General today (12th December) at 4.40pm EST.

Human Rights Investigations was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Professor Sellström, thanking us for information we provided regarding the short range of the rockets his team inspected in East Ghouta and saying he “had been informed of various attempts to simulate the path of similar rockets,” and saying he had “no problem with this information.”

The new report can be downloaded from the United National Office for Disarmament Affairs website

The report provides significant further information regarding responsibility for the 21st August incident, and some information about earlier alleged attacks – including that on Khan-al-Assal on 19th March – which the inspectors were in Damascus to investigate when the 21st August incident occurred.

It is disappointing that the new report makes no attempt to revisit the first report to correct and clarify the obvious errors (in particular regarding the trajectories of the rockets examined). The failure to provide any further significant information about the incident in Ghouta, despite the mass of additional data on which the Sellstrom team could presumably have drawn upon, is also very disappointing.

The new report may lead to a rush of instant headlines by journalists rushing to meet deadlines – in fact this process has begun even before the report has been published and discussed by the Security Council. It is perhaps a forlorn hope, but it would be great if this time round the report was analysed very carefully, rather than misinterpreted and used for warmongering purposes, as was the initial report.

At this juncture, we would like to say we all owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Sellström and his team of inspectors for risking their lives to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and of course to congratulate all those associated with the OPCW, past and present, on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for the fantastic achievement in persuading 190 states to ratify or accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

(updated after report publication, and first read-through 13/12/2013)

Update 13/12: Professor Sellstrom has confirmed Ken Roth’s Human Right Watch’s rocket intersection theory is false.

Evidence in the report about Sarin is suggestive the Zamalka scene may have been staged – lot more to come.

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