Statement by Director-General, Fernando Arias: Commemoration of the 1988 Halabja Chemical Weapons Attack

16 March 2021

THE HAGUE, Netherlands16 March 2021On behalf of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), I wish to extend to the people of Iraq and in particular the citizens of Halabja our deepest sympathies for the tragedy that befell their city on this day in 1988.

To pay tribute does not mean to simply remember, but to also honour and elevate the memory of those killed in such cruel and senseless circumstances.

The chemical attack on Halabja horrified the world and galvanised the international community in its efforts to permanently prohibit and eliminate chemical weapons.

This culminated in the adoption of the Chemical Weapons Convention and its eventual entry into force as a legally binding agreement, now adhered to by 193 States.

Today, the Convention stands as an example of what can be achieved in the field of disarmament when the international community works together to address needless human tragedy and suffering.

While the 16th of March is a moment to mourn, it is also an opportunity to strengthen our resolve to fulfil the Convention’s object and purpose of eradicating chemical weapons and the threat they pose.

It has never been clearer, 33 years after the atrocity at Halabja, that for the international community to ensure a safer and more secure world it must remain vigilant to this threat.

The voices of Halabja, those silenced and those that survive, serve as a reminder to us all and the generations to come of the consequences if we fail in this effort.