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

16 March 2023

THE HAGUE, Netherlands–16 March 2023–On behalf of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, I wish to convey to the citizens of Halabja our sincerest sympathies for the barbaric chemical attack it suffered in 1988.

16 March is a deeply meaningful date for the OPCW.

It is the day when we all remember those who fell victim to one of the largest civilian atrocities caused by chemical weapons.

Our commemoration this year is of particular significance since we are marking the 35th anniversary of the attack on Halabja.

2023 also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Chemical Weapons Convention in Paris, where States agreed never under any circumstances to develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, transfer, or use chemical weapons.

In a relatively short period of time, we have made great progress towards realising the Convention’s goals through our concerted actions.

In the latter half of this year, we will celebrate the conclusion of the destruction process of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles.

This will be a defining moment for the OPCW and a historic achievement for multilateral disarmament as a whole.   

Yet, the suffering of the victims in Halabja in 1988, and, regrettably, the recent use of chemical weapons in other countries, reminds us that we must not remain complacent.

In May, States Parties to the Convention will have a unique opportunity to review its progress and chart a course for the future during the Fifth Review Conference.

This will be the moment for the States Parties to renew their commitment to its obligations and reaffirm their will to attaining a world free of chemical weapons.

The pain, suffering and horror that visited Halabja one fateful evening 35 years ago underscores the critical importance of this enduring mission for peace and security.