Syrian regime rejects visa to chemical weapons inspector

Syrian regime rejects visa to chemical weapons inspector
The Syrian regime has denied a visa to Santiago Onate Laborde, an OPCW investigator who has new powers to determine who is responsible for chemical attacks in Syria.
2 min read
26 May, 2019
The OPCW's Investigation and Identification Team has new powers to determine responsibility for attacks [Getty]

The Syrian regime has denied a visa to a senior official of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), according to a report published by Al-bab on Saturday.

Santiago Onate Laborde, a Mexican lawyer, is the head of the Investigation and Identification Team, a new OPCW body with broad powers, including determining the perpetrators of chemical attacks.

Previous OPCW fact-finding missions have visited Syria over the past five years, but their remit did not include finding the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks.

In June 2018, however, member countries of the OPCW agreed by a large majority to allow the organisation to identify perpetrators of chemical attacks, which led to the creation of the Investigation and Identification Team.

However, the Syrian regime and its backers Russia and Iran strongly opposed this move and Russia has repeatedly obstructed the formation of the team.

A statement from the OPCW’s Director General says that the Investigation and Identification Team is "responsible for identifying the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic by identifying and reporting on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons in those instances in which the FFM [Fact-Finding Mission] determines or has determined that use or likely use occurred, and cases for which the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has not issued a report.”

In a letter to the OPCW, the regime’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Al-Miqdad, said that the regime refused to recognise the new Investigation and Identification team.

The Syrian regime joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013, following global outrage after a sarin gas attack on the then-opposition held Ghouta area which killed approximately 1400 people.

However, human rights organisations have said that the regime has used chlorine gas on a regular basis against opposition-held areas, carrying out more than 300 attacks since 2013.

The Syrian regime denies responsibility for the attacks.

On Wednesday, the United States said it had evidence that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons in its latest offensive against Idlib, which began last month and has killed hundreds of Syrians.

Over 500,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, most of them as a result of regime bombing of civilian areas.

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