THE HAGUE, Netherlands —6 July 2018—The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued an interim report on the FFM’s investigation to date regarding the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma, Syria on 7 April 2018.
The FFM’s activities in Douma included on-site visits to collect environmental samples, interviews with witnesses, data collection. In a neighbouring country, the FFM team gathered or received biological and environmental samples, and conducted witness interviews.
OPCW designated labs conducted analysis of prioritised samples. The results show that no organophosphorous nerve agents or their degradation products were detected in the environmental samples or in the plasma samples taken from alleged casualties. Along with explosive residues, various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from two sites, for which there is full chain of custody. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is on-going. The FFM team will continue its work to draw final conclusions.
The Fact-Finding Mission also issued a report on 2 July 2018 addressing allegations of chemical weapons use in Al-Hamadaniya, Syria on 30 October 2016, and Karm al-Tarrab, Syria on 13 November 2016. On the basis of the information received and analysed, the prevailing narrative of the interviews, and the results of the laboratory analyses, the FFM cannot confidently determine whether or not a specific chemical was used as a weapon in the incidents that took place in the neighbourhood of Al-Hamadaniyah and in the area of Karm al-Tarrab. The FFM noted that the persons affected in the reported incidents may, in some instances, have been exposed to some type of non-persistent, irritating substance.
The FFM’s reports on the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma, Al-Hamadaniya, and Karm Al-Tarrab have been shared with States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The reports were also transmitted to the UN Security Council through the UN Secretary-General.
In response to persistent allegations of chemical weapon attacks in Syria, the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) was set up in 2014 with an on-going mandate “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic”.
The FFM’s mandate is to determine whether chemical weapons or toxic chemicals as weapons have been used in Syria. It does not include identifying who is responsible for alleged attacks. Attribution was part of the mandate of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, set up by the UN Security Council, which expired in November 2017.
The FFM has previously confirmed with a “high degree of confidence” the use of chlorine, sulfur mustard, and sarin as weapons.
The FFM is required to study available information relating to allegations of use of chemical weapons in Syria, including information provided by the Syrian Arab Republic and others. The FFM employs investigative methods to determine if chemical weapons have been used. It interviews witnesses and obtains environmental and bio-medical samples and physical evidence for analysis.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons operates according to a strict confidentiality regime, which governs the operations of the Organisation, protects the integrity of its investigations, ensures the security of its technical experts, and determines what information can be made public.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW oversees the global endeavour to permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997 – and with its 193 States Parties – it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
Over 96% of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
- Note by the Technical Secretariat: Interim Report on the Progress of the Fact-Finding Mission Regarding an Incident of Alleged Use of Toxic Chemicals as a Weapon in Douma, Syrian Arab Republic, on 7 April 2018
- Report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria Regarding the Incidents in Al-Hamadaniyah on 30 October 2016 and in Karm Al-Tarrab on 13 November 2016
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- OPCW Fact Sheets