March 3, 2016
This seminar was given by former Army officer, Mr. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon. Hamish is currently a chemical weapons expert to NGOs working in Syria and Iraq. His seminar topic was the use of chemical weapons by ISIL and Assad.
Since the Syrian conflict started, Hamish has been deployed to the conflict area a number of times, where on behalf of OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon) he has helped set up a CBRNE task force. Additionally, he helps run 32 hospitals and clinics across Syria, where he has trained doctors how to treat chlorine casualties and how to collect evidence that can be further used in a court of justice. His efforts in Syria also include training civilians how to protect themselves against chemical weapons.
Hamish shared his experience on sampling and analysis of chemical warfare agents in Syria. He explained that sampling in war zones can be a challenging task due to various factors such as a violent environment, limited amount of time that can be spent on the scene, uncontrolled scene and limited equipment available.
Finally, Hamish covered different chemical weapons that he has encountered in the Syrian conflict zone, such as chlorine and sulfur mustard. Chlorine, a “choking agent” that has been used for the first time on a large scale in WW1, has been used in Syria in a series of attacks in April 2014. Sulfur mustard, a “blistering” agent, has been used in eight attacks on Kurdish forces from Northern Iraq just in the last two weeks of February 2016, causing more than 200 casualties.