Fourth OPCW whistleblower says staff ‘frightened into silence’ as watchdog brought into ‘shameful disrepute’ over Douma probe
The world’s foremost chemical weapons watchdog has granted itself new powers to assign blame for attacks, despite protests by Russia. Until now, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) could only say whether chemical weapons were used – but not who had used them.
Britain successfully argued that new powers were needed to deal with repeated chemical attacks in Syria. Russia said the move went “beyond the mandate” of the watchdog. It also said the organisation was facing an “artificially created crisis”.
The members of the OPCW, however, voted in large numbers for the measure, winning the vote by 82 to 24 – exceeding the two-thirds majority needed.Britain proposed the measure, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it would “strengthen the ban on chemical weapons and prevent impunity for their use”.
– First published … March 13, 2020 –
In a statement to the Grayzone, the latest whistleblower said they were “horrified” but “unsurprised” by recent events within the organization, describing the “mistreatment” of “two highly regarded and accomplished professionals” as “abhorrent.”
The employee wrote that he is “one of many who were stunned and frightened into silence by the reality how the organization operates,” and that the “threat of personal harm” to those who speak out is “not an illusion.”
The fourth whistleblower emerged after the OPCW leadership attempted to smear and discredit veteran inspector Ian Henderson and an individual known as ‘Alex’ who challenged the organization’s narrative on the alleged Syrian government attack on Douma in 2018.
A third whistleblower has also previously defended the integrity of the first two who spoke out and expressed concern for the safety and security of those who dissent from the official narrative.
The Grayzone said it had independently verified the identity of the fourth whistleblower and their position at the OPCW, but granted them anonymity “to protect them from potential retaliation.”
Last week, Henderson and ‘Alex’ both wrote to OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias, accusing the organization of trying to “smear” their reputations and questioning why two top inspectors with “impeccable records” would suddenly “go rogue.”
The letters followed an effort by the chemical weapons watchdog to discredit them, rubbish their serious concerns, and frame them merely as two disgruntled former employees.
“I fully support their endeavors, in that it is for the greater good and not for personal gain or in the name of any political agenda,” the fourth whistleblower wrote, adding that the inspectors are “trying to protect the integrity of the organization which has been hijacked and brought into shameful disrepute.”
After a detailed study, Henderson, who led the probe on the ground in Douma, concluded that gas cylinders found at the scene had likely been manually placed, which suggests the attack may have been a false flag staged by anti-government militants. The incident, however, was swiftly used to justify US, UK and French airstrikes on Syria before OPCW investigators had even arrived at the scene.
Yet, the OPCW disregarded Henderson’s evidence without explanation and in its official report implied that the gas cylinders were dropped by Syrian military planes – allegedly after “unacceptable pressure” was applied by the US government.