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Watchdog investigating alleged Douma chemical attack, as Russia claims no evidence Open in fullscreen

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Watchdog investigating alleged Douma chemical attack, as Russia claims no evidence

OPCW headquarters in The Hague [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 April, 2018

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The global watchdog said it was investigating reports that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta on Saturday that left dozens dead.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is investigating the alleged chemical weapons attack on Saturday in Eastern Ghouta that left dozens dead, its head said on Monday. 

The global watchdog "made a preliminary analysis of the reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons immediately after they were issued," said director general Ahmet Uzumcu. More information was being gathered "to establish whether chemical weapons were used," he added.

The OPCW has come under increasing fire for failing to sanction the Syrian regime for reportedly using chemical weapons.

In June 2014, the watchdog announced it had shipped all of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles as part of a deal brokered by Russia and the United States after the August 2013 attack in Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta, which left more than 700 dead. 

The UN Security Council and OPCW set up the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) in August 2015 to determine culpability for the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The JIM found the Syrian regime responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015. In October 2017, it also found the Syrian regime responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack on April 4, 2017.

The following month, Russia vetoed the UN Security Council resolution extending the Joint Investigative Mechanism's (JIM) mandate. 

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected reports of the chemical attack, calling it a "provocation". He said the Russian military visited the site and found no traces of chemicals. 

"Our military specialists have visited this place... and they did not find any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians," he added.

Human Rights Watch has analysed evidence of chemical weapons between August 2013 and February 2018, concluding the regime was responsible for the majority of the 85 chemical weapons attacks documented. 

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