The Syria, Propaganda and Media Working Group has undertaken a detailed examination of the final report from the OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission on the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018. The resultant Briefing Note – by Paul McKeigue, David Miller, and Piers Robinson – exposes deep flaws in the anonymously authored report. These discredit OPCW as a source of impartial investigation and undermine it as an international institution fit to be entrusted with maintaining the prohibition of chemical weapons.
Comments on the Briefing Note can be made below the Summary of it that follows.
The photos brought to public attention in January 2014 by the anonymous witness codenamed ‘Caesar’ show corpses, thousands in number, deceased from violent causes, some bearing signs of torture and many having suffered starvation and neglect. The dead are said to be victims of Syrian state detention facilities, but it is now known that many were not, and it is still not known for sure how many of them were. If the atrocity of the crimes to which the photos attest is in no doubt, the question of who perpetrated them is less clear-cut. Yet Western reports have unequivocally blamed the ‘Assad regime’. A counter-hypothesis, hardly considered in public discussions, is that many of the bodies were of civilians captured by Jaish al-Islam (JAI) after taking control of Douma in December 2012. JAI are known to have starved their captives while using them as slave labourers, which they did on a scale monumental enough to create the extraordinary network of deep and impressively engineered tunnels that we now see had been built across the area under their control. Nevertheless, a Qatari-sponsored prosecution team vouched for the Caesar evidence as being ‘capable of being believed’ – in a court of law – to show ‘systematic torture and killing of detained persons by the agents of the Syrian government.’ The Western media’s subsequent dissemination of the prosecutors’ interpretation of the images – unchallenged – caused it to be widely believed in the ‘court of public opinion’. Despite significant unsettled and unsettling questions, then, a particular account of what the images show has exercised considerable influence over people’s default assumptions about accountability for atrocities in Syria.
It is the influence of this specific interpretation of evidence that will be reflected on here, and without prejudice as to what may be established about occurrences in Syrian detention on other bases. Questions about the Caesar evidence point up concerns about the extent to which the dissemination of inaccurate information might have distorted the written historical record of our times and how it may have practically influenced real decisions and events. It matters to get at the truth about the photos for those reasons, as well as for the sake of families whose loved ones have disappeared, but there is also a further reason. This concerns a use made of Caesar’s testimony that may affect the future course of history too. It is the promotion by Western prosecutors of judicial innovation in the pursuit of accountability for atrocity crimes. The purpose of this article is to set out how and why that is a concern, and fundamentally one about justice. Continue reading
Peter Ford, former British Ambassador to Bahrain (1999–2003) and Syria (2003–2006), offers the following assessment. Continue reading
This page is for public comments and discussion relating to the Briefing Note on the Integrity Initiative, by Paul McKeigue, David Miller, Jake Mason, Piers Robinson, for the Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media. Continue reading
This post provides links to discussions of the Institute for Statecraft’s “Integrity Initiative”. As of April 2019 the links number 185. Continue reading
Posted in conspiracy theory, constitutional politics, disinformation, inter-media, journalism, media, propaganda, Russia, UK Government, Uncategorized, war
This is a press release issued by the Global Network for Syria (Corresponding author Baroness Cox <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
A joint investigation by BBC Panorama and BBC Arabic claimed to show how chemical weapons have been used by the Syrian Government as part of a deliberate military strategy. Yet there are serious concerns over the investigation’s reliance on ‘broadly impartial’ sources — who are not named — and consequently the reliability of the report’s findings. Continue reading
Posted in BBC, chemical weapons, disinformation, guest blog, journalism, media, OPCW, Syria, Syrian opposition, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets