A medic treats a young victim after a chemical attack on Latamineh in northwest Syria, March 2018

Almost eight years after the UN Security Council mandated the destruction of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has reiterated that the regime’s declaration of chemical stocks and facilities is still incomplete.

The regime has also stepped up its obstruction of the OPCW, alongside a years-long disinformation campaign by Assad officials, Russia — an essential backer of their regime — and supportive activists.

Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, briefed the Security Council on the findings in a report by OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias.

Nakamitsu summarized:

Efforts by the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team are still ongoing to clarify all the outstanding issues related to the initial declaration by Syria to OPCW In that regard, the Syrian Government must declare all chemical warfare agents produced and/or weaponized at the former chemical weapons production facility had never been used to produce and/or weaponize any weapons….

It is only through complete cooperation by the Syrian Arab Republic with the OPCW Technical Secretariat that all outstanding issues related to the Syrian Arab Republic’s initial declaration can be closed.

The OPCW’s Technical Secretariat has still not been able to conduct two rounds of inspections of the Barzah and Jamrayah facilities of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, the Assad regime’s organization for chemical weapons development. The regime has hidden or destroyed two cylinders used in the chlorine attack, killing 43 civilians, on Douma near Damascus in April 2018.

In April, OPCW member states suspended some of the Assad regime’s rights and privileges, amid confirmation of regime chemical attacks and Arias’s report on the blocking of inspections and failure to declare all weapons and facilities.

In his latest update, Arias said the regime is still refusing to issue an entry visa to an OPCW expert. “Given this situation, the Technical Secretariat confirmed that it would not deploy the Team to Syria,” Nakamitsu told the Security Council.

Most Council members reinforced the OPCW’s concern. Estonia’s Andre Lipand emphasized that those who ordered or carried out chemical weapons attacks must be identified and face a reckoning: “Impunity is not an option.”

However, Russia’s Dmitry Polyanskiy continued to protect the Assad regime through denunciation of the organization and repetition of disinformation covering up chemical attacks.

The Assad regime’s UN Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh defended the refusal of the entry visa as the OPCW expert was “non‑objective in the past and could easily be replaced”. He insisted that “Syria is cooperating with OPCW and is keen to close the file as soon as possible.”