A former inspector with the OPCW has accused the chemical weapons watchdog of issuing a sanitized report on the alleged 2018 attack in Douma, Syria, arguing it ignored serious reservations of its own fact-finding team.
The OPCW’s final report on the Douma incident, released last March, omitted key findings of its own inspections team which would have cast serious doubt on whether a chemical attack took place at all, a now former OPCW specialist, Ian Henderson, told members of the United Nations Security Council in a recorded video address – after his visa application to attend the meeting in person was rejected.
“The findings in the final [Fact Finding Mission] report were contradictory, were a complete turnaround with what the team had understood collectively during and after the Douma deployments,” Henderson said.
Ian Henderson, member of OPCW team on Douma, spoke today at the UN.
He re-stated his belief that no chemical attack occurred & called the final OPCW report a “complete turnaround in the situation from what was understood by the majority of the team and the entire Douma team.” https://t.co/TknX8YZ4Ic
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) January 20, 2020
Even though several members of the fact finding team “had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred” as early as July 2018, the organization’s final report – compiled by another group that never even visited the incident site – nonetheless concluded there were “reasonable grounds” to all but pin the blame for the attack on Damascus.
Sanitized of any dissenting opinion, the report ignored “findings, facts, information, data or analysis” gathered by the team in the areas of witness testimony, toxicology studies, chemical analysis, as well as ballistics, the retired inspector said.
Washington and its allies blamed the Syrian government for the Douma incident, with the US, France and the UK launching joint strikes against Syria a week later, well before any official investigation could even start, and even delaying it. Western politicians and media claimed at the time – based purely on visual materials and witness accounts provided by the notorious White Helmets and other militant-linked sources – that the Syrian government forces had ‘highly likely’ dropped two poisonous gas cylinders, killing scores of civilians.
For his part, Henderson carried out a closer analysis of that pair of cylinders mysteriously found in a residential area of Douma. His ‘Engineering Assessment’ was initially leaked last May, laying out a number of hypotheses for how the cylinders wound up at the site in Douma. Most significantly, it noted a “higher probability” that they were “manually placed” instead of being “delivered from aircraft,” suggesting a party other than the Syrian government may have planted them there.
In my case, I had followed up with a further six months of engineering and ballistics studies into the cylinders, the result of which had provided further support for the view that there had not been a chemical attack.
Subsequent WikiLeaks publications would reveal that a senior OPCW official ordered “all traces” of Henderson’s assessment to be scrubbed from its archives. Yet despite the internal battle undermining OPCW’s credibility, Henderson insisted the dispute should not be a matter of “political debate,” urging for any discrepancies to be “properly resolved … through the rigors of science and engineering.”