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Investigation of three more chemical attacks in Syria to be completed in September

August 31, 8:29 UTC+3
The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) deemed it necessary to give up the study of three more cases that occurred from April 2015 to May 2015 due to the lack of sufficient information
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The cemetery of Douma, Syria (archive)

The cemetery of Douma, Syria (archive)


UNITED NATIONS, August 31. /TASS/. The investigation of three more cases of use of toxic agents in Syria will be completed in September, Virginia Gamba, the head of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), told reporters following a closed-door meeting with UN Security Council members.

She confirmed that JIM was able to complete its investigation of three of nine incidents. According to experts, in two populated localities in the Idlib province in April 2015 and in March 2015, chlorine containers were dropped from helicopters of the Syrian Air Force, while in the town of Marea (Aleppo province) on August 21, 2015, sulfur mustard was used by terrorists. JIM deemed it necessary to give up the study of three more cases that occurred from April 2015 to May 2015 due to the lack of sufficient information. The experts recommended to continue the investigation of the remaining cases - in Kafr Zita on April 18, 2914, and in Qumenes and Binnish in March 2015.

Gamba recalled that the mandate of JIM established by a Security Council decision expires on September 23. "The JIM ends its life then, and we will come back with the results of the three cases that I mentioned before the 23rd of September," she said.

According to Gamba, UN and OPCW experts are "acutely aware of the ongoing use of chemicals as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic." She noted it was necessary not to allow chemical weapons to become the norm of the conflict in Syria or anywhere else.

"The perpetrators must be identified and held accountable to deter such actions in the future, the JIM head said.

Damascus rejects report’s findings

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, earlier refuted the experts’ findings saying they are "totally based on statements made by witnesses presented by the terrorist armed groups" and "lack any physical evidence whether by samples or attested medical reports that chlorine was used."

For his part, Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, admitted that evidence contained in the report "could be fabricated by the forces opposed to Damascus and terrorist groups, perhaps not without outside help." He also pointed out that it is not sufficient for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Damascus.

Responding to these critical remarks, Virginia Gamba said that the experts tried to work impartially and professionally. She added that the experts used very high standards to check the available evidence and information and sought to verify it from many sources. "I think what Ambassador Churkin was probably meaning is that in reality chlorine cases in general are very difficult, because it is a substance that disappears very quickly unlike a chemical weapon like sarin or VX or mustard that leaves for a long-long time an imprint," the diplomat said.

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