The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) designated laboratories are a linchpin of the Organisation’s verification regime and its capacity to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons.
They must be able to perform off-site analysis of chemical samples collected by OPCW inspectors from chemical production facilities, storage depots and other installations, or from the site of an alleged use of chemical weapons.
These laboratories offer the necessary assurance to our States Parties that chemical analyses needed to make determinations or to clarify issues occurring during OPCW deployments are carried out competently, impartially, and with unambiguous results.
OPCW does not disclose the identity of designated labs that have contributed to specific OPCW activities. These labs are bound by secrecy agreements regarding the work they do with the OPCW. These agreements exist to ensure the integrity of the analysis and results provided by the designated labs.
How the OPCW Designates Laboratories
When designating laboratories for the analysis of authentic samples, and in accordance with C-I/DEC.61 and C-I/DEC.65, the Director-General takes the following into account:
- Whether the laboratory has established a quality system in accordance with the standards (ISO/IEC 17025:2005 or equivalent) and has valid accreditation by an internationally recognised accreditation body for the tasks for which it is seeking designation—namely, for the analysis of chemical-warfare agents and related compounds in various types of samples; and
- Whether the laboratory has performed successfully in the proficiency testing programme of the OPCW.
A laboratory must participate in the proficiency testing programme at least once per calendar year unless the additional guidelines in C-20/DEC.4 are applicable.
A rating of three “As”, or two “As” and one “B”, on the three most recent consecutive tests of a laboratory shall be regarded as constituting a successful performance.
If a designated laboratory performs unsuccessfully in a proficiency test, it may be temporarily suspended, but retain designated status, or it may have its designated status withdrawn, according to the guidelines in EC-80/DEC.3. When this happens, the laboratory will no longer be selected by the Director-General to receive and analyse authentic samples from the OPCW. However, it may perform other tasks, as set out in C-I/DEC.67.