OPCW Issues Two Fact-Finding Mission Reports on Chemical Weapons Use Allegations in Aleppo and Saraqib, Syria

2 October 2020

THE HAGUE, Netherlands—2 October 2020—The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued today two reports on the FFM’s investigation regarding separate incidents of alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon in Aleppo, Syrian Arab Republic, on 24 November 2018 and in Saraqib, Syrian Arab Republic, on 1 August 2016.

The FFM’s activities regarding the allegation in Aleppo included visiting hospitals to collect medical records and witness accounts, conducting interviews, obtaining information, and gathering other data. The FFM also received environmental samples from State Parties. It further analysed a range of inputs, including witness testimonies, results of environmental sample analysis, epidemiological and technical analyses, and additional digital information from witnesses and State Party technical experts.

Pertaining to this allegation in Aleppo, the information obtained and analysed, the composite summary of the interviews and the results of the laboratory analyses did not allow the FFM to establish whether or not chemicals were used as a weapon in the incident that took place in the neighbourhood of Al-Khalidiyah and its surroundings in North-West Aleppo on 24 November 2018.

The FFM’s activities regarding the allegation in Saraqib included collecting medical records and other digital information, conducting interviews, and gathering other data.

The results of the analysis of all available data obtained up until the issuance of this report did not allow the FFM to establish whether or not chemicals were used as a weapon in the incident that took place in Saraqib, in the Idlib Governorate, on 1 August 2016

The FFM’s reports on these two allegations of chemical weapons 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.

Background

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. 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.

Following the Decision on “Addressing the threat from chemical weapons use”, adopted by the Conference of the States Parties at its Special Session in June 2018, the Technical Secretariat has put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The FFM has previously determined that the use of chlorine, sulfur mustard, and sarin as chemical weapons took place in other incidents in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The OPCW 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, with its 193 Member States, oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997, it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

Over 98% of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

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