The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) has discovered enough evidence to warrant further investigation on allegations that Turkey has been using chemical weapons in its military operations in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), Jan Van Aken told Mezopotamya Agency in an interview on Friday.
“There is enough evidence to warrant a formal international investigation. I am not in a position to say yes, there was a chemical attack, but I am in a position to say there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation,” said Van Aken, a former UNMOVIC inspector of biological weapons and an expert on chemical weapons.
The Nobel Peace Prize winning IPPNW held a week-long visit in the KRI for in situ examinations, but could not get very far in their efforts as the local governorates did not grant them the necessary permissions.
“No reason was given, but I think the problem is the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil (Hewler) did not want us to investigate, because apparently there is some kind of cooperation with the Turkish government,” he said. “But this is a guess from our part.”
The KRG has close relations with Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, and is currently accused of collaborating with the AKP in its efforts against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has its headquarters and many encampments in the KRI.
Turkey has been engaged in intense military operations in the region since April. Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters in September that the Turkish Armed Forces killed 371 PKK members since then, while the PKK’s armed wing, the People’s Protection Forces (HPG) reported losing 105 of its members in the same timeframe.
Reports the IPPNW have prepared need to be relayed to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) member states, Van Aken said.
“Because the OPCW is an organisation that has member states, and the member states are the bosses,” he continued. “We need the member states to say ‘please investigate’.”
The current report on IPPNW’s findings has been submitted to the German government. “I hope something will happen here,” Van Aken said.
While KRG stands accused of cooperation with Turkey, Van Aken said the Iraqi Federal Government “never gave permission to Turkey to have military operations in Northern Iraq. That is why the whole operation violates international law.”
However, the Iraqi government has also not appealed to the OPCW yet. “This is key. And that they are not involved in the chemical attacks.”
Two “big issues” at hand are a speech by Minister Akar, where he said the TAF “only uses tear gas” in the operation in Iraq’s Mount Gara.
“Probably he did not know, but using tear gas in a military operation is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Van Aken said.
While “it sounds strange” that use of tear gas would be legal in demonstrations but not in military operations, the matter is “very clear, there is no doubt about it in the CWC, and there is very good reason for it to be prohibited.”
The other big issue is more indirect, but in combination, the evidence is “enough” to warrant further inquiry, the expert said. “To me it looks like the Turkish military produces a self-made chemical agent.”
HPG members have discovered containers of over-the-counter chemicals that can be used to manufacture chlorine gas, one of the banned chemicals that was first weaponised in World War I.
The IPPNW has been calling for official investigations into the matter, but no organisation has yet launched any efforts.