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Ten detectives to uncover those who use kemvapen

In the summer, decided the Organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons (OPCW) to start a kind of detective agency. In the past, the inspectors have only been required to find out if chemical weapons have been in use or not. From next year, it is thought that the ten investigators to go one step further and find out who's to blame for the attack.

" this is important for transparency and accountability, says Jan Lodding working at the state department with questions about chemical weapons.

He is involved right now in a big meeting at the OPCW headquarters in the netherlands the Hague. Where is the question of next year's budget for the first time triggered a storpolitiskt quarrel. A group of countries with Russia in the lead wanted to stop the budget because it covers the cost of the new detectives. In the week they lost the vote with the numbers 99 to 27.

– There is a huge division among the member states, " says Jan Lodding.

in recent years, the wave of attacks with chemical weapons on several parts of the world.

Long was the organization more or less forgotten. Quietly supervised the destruction of the cold war, vast stocks of chemical weapons. The work is based on the chemical weapons convention, 193 countries promised to follow.

the Issue gained new urgency in the spring of 2013. There came rumors of chemical weapons in the syrian civil war. In the same year was awarded the OPCW with the Nobel peace prize.

the then UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon decided to investigate the events in Syria. He contacted Åke Sellström, the Swedish scientist and försvarsforskare with experience of mapping the use of chemical weapons in Iraq in the 1990s.

Åke Sellström. Photo: Meli Petersson Ellafi

the head of a delegation that was in Syria in August 2013, when a gas attack struck Ghouta, a suburb southeast of Damascus. The inspectors met with the injured, took blood samples and samples from the ground.

"We were able to conclude that sarin had been used," says Åke Sellström.

According to various estimates died between the hundreds and well over a thousand people. Sarin is a neurotoxin that prevents the body from breaking down the signaling substance acetylcholine, which paralyzes the muscles and leads to suffocation.

Åke Sellström suspect that the syrian regime was behind the attack, but it was not included in his mission to find the culprit.

from the united states, France and the Uk went to Syria to destroy its stocks of chemical weapons. The majority consisted of mustard gas and a precursor to sarin, which is called the DF. Unlike sarin has DF a very long shelf life. It can be transformed into sarin with a simple chemical process.

It is possible to break down both mustard gas and DF to less toxic substances by mixing them with water. It was done at a facility on board the u.s. navy ship Cape Ray outside Syrian coast in 2014.

Despite the dismantling continued chemical weapons to spread terror in Syria. It led to the UN security council, together with the OPCW, formed a group of experts to find the culprit. Åke Sellström was as a scientific expert. In the group, with the name Jim (Joint Investigative Mechanism), included police officers, chemists, forensic specialists, some medical and military analysts.

the syrian regime on three occasions used the chlorine gas. It was about gastuber released from helicopters, which only the regime had access to. The use of chlorine is a common industrial chemical, and is significantly less toxic than sarin and other neurotoxins. Therefore brought the charges no more attention.

It is a terrible thought that it would be used in a shopping mall or in a cinema

In a report last year accused Jim terrorist organisations IS for a mortar with mustard gas in northeastern Syria. Two women became seriously ill but survived.

mustard gas was used for the first time in the year 1917 by the German troops at Ypres in Belgium. Substance forms blisters on the skin and in the respiratory tract, and can also react with dna and cause cancer. It is much easier to produce mustard gas than sarin.

– IS doing this in terrorsyfte. It is a terrible thought that it would be used in a shopping mall or in a cinema, " says Åke Sellström.

also accused the syrian regime for the attack with the nerve agent sarin (see graphics). It aroused very strong reactions in Russia, Syria's ally.

Link to the graphics

Jim was a temporary project, which was extended by one year at a time. In november last year, abused Russia, with its veto in the UN security council to stop a further extension. The expert group dispersed.

at the same time, develop increasingly effective ways to investigate the chemical vapenbrott. Researchers in Sweden and the USA have recently made a careful analysis of the mustard gas and VX, a neurotoxin that is similar to sarin, but is even more toxic. They took a kind of chemical fingerprint by measuring the levels and interrelationships between the quantities of pollutants in the samples obtained by different persons in different laboratories.

" We were able to distinguish all of them. In each sample, we were able to determine the origin and method of production. Sometimes you can even trace the origin of the raw material used, " says Rikard Norlin, a chemist at the Swedish Defence research agency.

occurs in investigations of drug-related offences. The chemical fingerprints also included in the investigation of the assassination attempt on the Russian dubbelagenten Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Julia, Skripal with nervgiftet Novichok in the uk to Salisbury in the spring. The united kingdom, France, the united states and several other countries accuse Russia for the deed.

This, together with a putative kemvapenattack in Douma in Syria in april, led to the united kingdom suggested that the OPCW should establish its own permanent group of experts to find the bad guys behind the attack with chemical weapons. Now when the next budget is approved, the organization can begin to recruit.

"It's really hopeful," says Åke Sellström, who is retired and will not seek any detektivjobb.

independent of the united nations, which means that a veto in the Security council is not sufficient to close the dicky. Thus, it is clear that the OPCW has received a new role.

The traditional work of inspecting chemical plants and monitor the scrapping of the stored chemical weapons has gone well. Over 96 per cent – almost 70 000 tonnes – of all the reported chemical weapons are destroyed. Åke Sellström believe in an end of the large-scale use of chemicals in the war between the states began over a hundred years ago.

" But there are other maniacs. It is well the spread of technology to terrorists, you can worry about, " he says.

Russian air strikes following the suspected gas attack.

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