Chemical weapons attacks: those responsible must be found

The OPCW headquarters building in The Hague

The OPCW headquarters building in The Hague, © ANP

25.06.2018 - Article

The international community needs a neutral institution that can conduct enquiries into attacks involving chemical weapons. Why the independent OPCW must also be responsible for attributing attacks. 

Chemical weapons are horrific and inhuman. Anyone who uses them is committing a crime and blatantly violating international humanitarian law. The ban contained in the Chemical Weapons Convention is unequivocal – under no circumstances whatsoever is the use of these weapons justified. Despite this, hundreds of people have fallen victim to chemical agents in recent years – from Syria to Salisbury. 
In Germany’s view, there is no doubt that, to prevent an erosion of the worldwide ban, those responsible must finally be held to account. For this to happen, they must first be identified. However, there is currently no neutral institution that can conduct an independent enquiry into who is behind the respective attacks. All efforts by the UN Security Council to attribute the poison gas attacks in Syria have been blocked – for instance, by Russia using its veto. As long as there is no neutral investigative body, those responsible can easily deny responsibility by disseminating propaganda and false information.    

Neutral investigations instead of propaganda 

Germany and many other countries are now seeking to change that. The independent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must be given authority to attribute these brutal attacks. Currently, the OPCW only determines if an attack involving chemical agents took place. 

A special session of the OPCW

The special session that begins tomorrow must send a clear signal, namely by confirming that the OPCW should also have the authority to investigate leads regarding those who are responsible for attacks. It should submit its findings to the respective bodies in the organisation, i.e., the Executive Council and the Conference of the States Parties – so that these in turn can take the corresponding action.
A clear message must be sent to those responsible for these horrific poison gas attacks – namely that anyone using chemical weapons will be held to account.



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