This post is the 2nd of our series where we will try to debunk lies and propaganda found on the Internet and the media in recent days. Many are coming from pro-Assad, extreme right and conspirationist networks and they found their ways into honest or naive anti-war activists. We are paying a severe price of Bush’s and Blair lies about Irak and pro-Assad propaganda is using that to infiltrate media and social networks with false rumors and half truth arguments. We will try to debunk them the best we can.
The case :
The UN says that the rebels are responsible for sarin gas attack.
The Lie :
No UN body or commission ever came to that conclusion. The propaganda is using an interview Carla del Ponte, member of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (which is not the special UN body sent to investigate chemical attacks) made last may.
Del Ponte’s comments are used without date so as to induce that del Ponte is commenting last august chemical attack that happened in damascus suburbs, Ghouta. The idea is that no one is going to read the article (and check the date) but the title and the link will go viral under the title « UN says rebels are responsible for chemical attack ». In the end, it will lead people to believe rebels are responsible for Al Ghouta chemical attack that happened in august.
Anyone who reads the date or the article can see this allegation relies on the comments Del Ponte had last may.
Here is an article that went viral on social networks. It is serious article but it was usually posted without the date so if you do not follow the link and read the article you may end up thinking it is a recent news about al Ghouta chemical attack.
Here is another article written on august 27 but also entirely relying on the comments del Ponte had last may. Again if no one reads it, it appears as if del Ponte’s comments were made last week.
Eventually, for French readers, here is a op-ed from Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (who ran for presidential elections) who also relies on del Ponte’s comments. Dupont-Aignant is a moderate center right political leader
The conclusions of the UN investigators that were officialised last may by Carla del Ponte revealed that Syrian opposition did use chemical weapons on Khan al-Aassal.
The Truth :
Del Ponte made a personal comment during an interview to RSI on may 6 2013. (here the story on BBC)
She said “According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.”
Although she is a member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (which is not specifically investigating Chemical Weapons) her comments were not an official conclusion. The official reaction to Del Ponte comments from the commission can be found here
The statement reads :
Geneva, 6 May 2013 — The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict. As a result, the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time.
The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic did issue a report with its findings and conclusions. The report can be found here (in pdf)
The official conclusion (supported by del Ponte) is :
« There are reasonable grounds to believe that chemical agents have been used as weapons. The precise agents, delivery systems or perpetrators could not be identified. »
The report also says, on the matter of chemical weapons, that
Conclusive findings – particularly in the absence of a large-scale attack – may be reached only after testing samples taken directly from victims or the site of the alleged attack. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the Panel of Experts, led by Professor Sellström and assembled under the Secretary General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, is granted full access to Syria.
This official recommendation, issued by the very commission where del Ponte is a member, was made on june 4 2013, two and a half month before Assad agrees to let Sellström into Syria.