The Chemical Weapons Convention is a treaty between 192 nations that essentially outlaws the manufacture, stockpiling and implementation of chemical weapons. Four UN nations are not a part of this treaty, and they are Egypt, North Korea, South Sudan and Israel (Israel has signed but not ratified). The treaty was signed in 1993, and since then the staggering majority of stockpiles around the world have been eliminated. Still, chemical weapons remains and it only takes a small amount to inflict catastrophic results on a population, be it military or civilian.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the acting arm of this treaty. After their implementation, over 95% of chemical weapon stockpiles were declared and destroyed by their possessing entities. Because of its extensive work and success in the field, the OPCW received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2013.
The mission of the OPCW is to implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in order to achieve the OPCW’s vision of a world that is free of chemical weapons and of the threat of their use, and in which cooperation in chemistry for peaceful purposes for all is fostered. In doing this, our ultimate aim is to contribute to international security and stability, to general and complete disarmament, and to global economic development.”
Since the reports of chemical weapons used on civilians (most of which were women and children) in Douma, Syria, the OPCW began to look into the matter. These “Fact-Finding Missions” allow the OPCW to clearly, scientifically discern what kind of chemicals were used, how they were used, and to obtain and document witness stories who can corroborate everything. While initial reports and quick action can often be necessary, it’s important for official investigations to be conducted so as to eliminate any shadow of a doubt if at all possible. This will give authorities something to point to when other countries deny that it ever happened — because they most likely will.
While this is a part of their ongoing mission in Syria to investigate the chemical attacks over the last few years, the OPCW will not publish any of their findings until the investigation is complete — a common investigatory tactic that disallows people to jump to false conclusions. Once the investigation is complete, the OPCW and its Director-General Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü will report their findings to all 192 member states of the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty.
There is currently a lot of conjecture into the matter with Douma, but many experts in the chemical warfare field will say that identifying a specific agent from a video or hearsay is impossible, and laboratory analysis cannot be overlooked. With that said, preliminary reports point toward a nerve agent. The OPCW intends to find out, and to investigate the reports of chlorine in the mix as well.
Their previous investigations and fact-finding mission have shed some light on events in Syria, and you can read them here.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.