The White Helmets’ Statement on the Report of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team on the Chemical Attack on the City of Douma
The IIT report’s findings provide the facts in the face of Russia’s attempts to mislead world public opinion through disinformation campaigns, diplomatic moves, intimidation of witnesses, and the disruption of the work of UN committees and investigation teams.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has proved through the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) report, issued on January 27th, 2023, that the Assad regime is directly responsible for perpetrating the chemical attack in the city of Douma on April 7th, 2018. This horrific atrocity killed 43 civilians using chlorine gas, which is listed under chemicals prohibited to be used as a weapon in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). This finding comes in the context of more than four years of concerted disinformation campaigns from the Assad regime and Russia aiming to distort the truth and cover the regime’s tracks.
The OPCW report reveals that the Assad regime once again violated the provisions of the CWC. What is more, the regime continues to refuse to uphold its obligation to hand over all its chemical weapons stockpiles, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013). The United Nations’ Office for Disarmament Affairs and OPCW teams have consistently confirmed that the Assad regime has presented loopholes, inconsistencies, and contradicting narratives on the manufacture and development of chemical weapons inside Syria, especially after the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) provided information indicating that the regime continued to produce or arm nerve agents used in chemical warfare after 2014.
The IIT report’s findings provide the facts in the face of Russia’s attempts to mislead world public opinion through disinformation campaigns, diplomatic moves, intimidation of witnesses, and the disruption of the work of UN committees and investigation teams. Russia has worked hard to create a state of uncertainty, providing a cover for the Assad regime. The report today vindicates the voices of survivors and witnesses of the attack and establishes the facts of the attack against false allegations and disinformation.
The White Helmets considers the IIT report an important and necessary step for establishing the truth. However, the report remains insufficient, unless the United Nations takes serious and rapid measures for justice and accountability. Previous reports issued by UN committees and the OPCW have proved the regime’s use of chemical weapons on eight other separate incidents.
Failure to hold the Assad regime accountable for using chemical weapons and violating the CWC provides a green light to the regime and others to continue launching deadly attacks with chemical weapons or internationally prohibited weapons. The continued silence of the international community towards these crimes is an alarming trend that threatens humanity.
The White Helmets strongly condemns any attempt to rehabilitate the Assad regime, which used chemical weapons against Syrians, and rejects any tampering or condoning of these crimes.
There is currently no international collective action to hold individuals criminally responsible for chemical attacks. Although their use is prohibited in international law, chemical attacks in Syria have never been prosecuted internationally at any tribunal. The White Helmets calls for international collective action to investigate all chemical attacks confirmed by the OPCW and to hold individuals criminally responsible. Such action would send a message that the use of chemical weapons is a clear violation of well-established norms and that accountability for violations is a priority for the international community. This situation concerns all of humanity; a criminal cannot be accepted in the international community with impunity.
The White Helmets acknowledge the bravery and contributions of first responders, witnesses, and all those who participated in the international investigation, despite the risks to their safety. We express our concern for their safety, and we demand international guarantees for their protection.
The White Helmets commends the efforts of the independent UN investigation teams and confirms its full support for the OPCW and its investigation teams. Together, we must continue to work towards justice for the victims and tackle impunity by providing evidence and facts about all chemical attacks committed against civilians in Syria.
The White Helmets is committed, like the OPCW, to "working together for a world free of chemical weapons".