Организация по запрещению химического оружия (ОЗХО)
Questions on the activities of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM)
The Russian Federation has analyzed reports of the FFM regarding incidents in Saraqib (S/1626/2018), Ltamenah (S/1636/2018) as well as the interim report regarding incident in Douma (S/1645/2018). In this regard the Russian Federation would like to receive answers to the following questions.
1. According to the Joint Statement made by Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Chez Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, the UK and the US dated April 26, 2018 (EC-M-58/NAT.5) "medical NGOs have found traces of chemical agents on the victims. Photographs and videos, numerous and mutually reinforcing, have been authenticated. The symptoms of more than 500 (sic!) patients who were presented on the same day of attack at health care facilities undoubtedly corresponded to gas intoxication".
At the same time the interim report regarding incident in Douma does not contain any reference to the results of any epidemiological analysis confirming any exposure to the toxic chemical. If there were 500 patients and the FFM had interviewed representatives of the medical facilities why this information is excluded from the report? Don't you think that such statements before completing of the FFM activities could negatively influence the work of the Mission?
2. Question on the medical facilities in Douma. The interim report regarding incident in Douma has no assessment whatsoever of the video published by the "White Helmets" where people are being watered presumably to reduce effects of the chemical poisoning. The FFM had an opportunity to have interviews with people from this video. What are the FFM assessment of this event and why there is no information on it contained in the interim report?
3. We would like to get explained what the notion "the evidentiary value of samples taken mostly close to the time of the alleged incidents and supported by photographic and video evidence and in association with witness testimony was balanced against the evidentiary value of the FFM's visit to the site some time later to collect its own samples" reflected in the reports of the FFM regarding incidents in Saraqib and Ltamenah implies? How it correlates with the "chain of custody" principle?
The document entitled "The Chain of Custody and Documentation for OPCW Samples On-Site" stipulates that "in case that the integrity of a sample is questionable (when there has been a time when the sample was not under the OPCW custody)...such a sample will not be accepted for OPCW verification purposes".
4. In the report of the FFM regarding incident in Saraqib one of the sources of information (Annex 2) is the press-release of the US Department of State - a country directly involved in the Syrian conflict. Why then the FFM refuses to take into consideration data, for example, of the Russian Ministry of Defence or the Russian MFA? Or the materials submitted by the Syrian Arab Republic?
5. The OPCW press-release on the publication of the interim report regarding incident in Douma states that "...samples from two sites, for which there is full (sic!) chain of custody". What does it mean? Does that imply that in the previous reports the "chain of custody" was somehow limited? How it is even possible to grade "chain of custody"?
6. Why the FFM doesn't organize briefings after the publication of the reports? The last one dated July 5, 2017. From that time till now at least four reports were published. Is it consistent with the spirit of transparency of the FFM work?
7. Could the Director-General comment on the geographical representation of the FFM staff? Is there any specific reasoning why the leading positions in the FFM hold the representatives of those State-Parties that participate in the Syrian conflict and oppose the official Damascus? For some time both leaders of the FFM were the UK nationals.
8. According to the Joint Statement made by Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, the UK and the US dated April 26, 2018 (EC-M-58/NAT.5) the Director-General "informed the Russian Federation that such a meeting [joint briefing of the Russian Federation and the Syrian Arab Republic on April 26, 2018] ... goes against the work currently being carried out in the Syrian Arab Republic by OPCW investigators, and if these "witnesses" have useful information on the incident, they should be presented to the FFM to be interviewed". However, before the April 26, 2018, when this statement was circulated, seven participants of the named briefing had been already interviewed by the FFM. Hence, there only two plausible explanations: either the Director-General had not been informed properly by the leadership of the FFM about the current Mission's activities or the above-mentioned countries falsely interpreted the Director-General's words. Could you comment on this discrepancy?