Kurdish protesters storm chemical weapons body

The Hague (AFP) – Dutch police arrested 50 people on Friday after Kurdish demonstrators alleging that Turkey is using chemical weapons in northern Iraq broke into the headquarters of the global toxic arms watchdog.


Protesters got past security to enter the grounds of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague and staged a noisy rally outside the building's front doors, AFP journalists saw.

Police dragged the demonstrators off one by one, put them on the ground and handcuffed them. Some were bundled into waiting vans, but the large number meant many were taken away in a hired bus.

At least a dozen police vehicles sealed off the road outside the OPCW, which is opposite Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's official residence. Several ambulances and a medical helicopter were also at the scene.

"Around 50 demonstrators have been arrested and transferred to a police location," a spokesman for The Hague police told AFP.

Britain's delegation at the body said it was "deeply concerned to see protesters break into (the) OPCW" and thanked police for the "swift response".

It said evidence on chemical weapons used "should be submitted to OPCW through appropriate channels."

Turkey denies using chemical weapons in its conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

Turkish jets regularly attack the separatists' bases in northern Iraq and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, with several villages having emptied of their inhabitants since a new Turkish army offensive in April.

The PKK and Kurdish organisations in Europe have in recent months accused Turkey of using chemical weapons, including a nerve agent and sulphur mustard gas, in dozens of attacks in northern Iraq.

“We have called on OPCW and all international bodies to come and independently investigate the use of chemical weapons," Zagros Hiwa, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union, the PKK's political branch, told AFP.

Friday's protest came after the OPCW held its annual meeting of member states this week, during which Syria and Russia came under pressure for alleged chemical weapons use.