Disinfo: OPCW violated Chemical Weapons Convention to serve Western interests


The OPCW reputation as an authoritative expert body in the field of chemical disarmament has actually been sacrificed to the Middle East geopolitical ambitions of a small group of countries.

The Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) was set up in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Only the UN Security Council has the right to apportion blame for chemical attacks.


Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative attacking the independence and integrity of the OPCW, and absolving the Syrian regime of responsibility for chemical attacks.

The claim that a "small group of countries" calls the shots in the OPCW is false. The ITT was established following the Fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties, during which it was decided to "put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic" (p. 3, para 10). The decision passed with a majority of 82 votes against 24, satisfying the two-thirds minimum which the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires for "matters of substance" (Art. VII, para 18). In a November 2019 vote, 106 delegates voted to approve the ITT's funding, against 19 opposed. Moreover, the Team itself "includes personnel from all geographical groups."

The claim that only the UN Security Council can assign responsibility for chemical attacks is untrue and at odds with Russia's own UNSC voting record. The CWC provides that, "in cases of particular gravity," the Conference shall "bring the issue, including relevant information and conclusions, to the attention of the […] Security Council" (Art. XII, para 4, emphasis added." Such cases grant the Security Council the power to "redress a situation and to ensure compliance" with the CWC, but do not imply an exclusive right to apportion blame.

It is true that the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) used to be the only international body authorized to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks, and its mandate was subject to extension by the UN Security Council. However, the Mechanism was terminated in late 2017, after the Russian delegation repeatedly blocked UNSC resolutions calling for its extension. The IIT has thus been set up to investigate "cases for which [JIM] has not identified the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria."


  • Reported in: Issue 194
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 22/04/2020
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: Russia, Syria
  • Keywords: United Nations, OPCW, Chemical weapons/attack, Syrian War, The West


Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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