Commemoration of the 1988 Halabja Chemical Weapons Attack

Statement by OPCW Director-General, Fernando Arias

16 March 2024

On 16 March each year, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) commemorates the tragic chemical weapons attack in Halabja, Iraq.

This horrific act, which claimed the lives of numerous civilians and left a lasting scar on the survivors, serves as a reminder of the catastrophic consequences of chemical warfare. It also underscores the necessity to reinforce our collective commitment to disarmament, peace, and security.

This year’s commemoration holds particular importance as we reflect on the OPCW’s major achievement in July 2023—the completion of the destruction of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles. This accomplishment marks a pivotal moment in the history of the Chemical Weapons Convention and for global disarmament and non-proliferation.  

Yet, our work is far from over.

In recent years, we have witnessed the shocking use of chemical weapons in several countries. Additionally, we are faced with continuously degrading international security environment, which places the spotlight once again on threats of use of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons. Unprecedented advancement of science and technology may also increase the risk of toxic chemicals being employed for malicious purposes.

These developments have emphasised the need for the international community to do more to prevent their re-emergence.

For its part, the OPCW is addressing these concerns by strengthening its preparedness and bolstering its support to its Member States to ensure the Convention’s full and effective implementation. Our new Centre for Chemistry and Technology is now fully operational and already making tangible contributions to these goals.

As we observe this sombre anniversary, let us re-dedicate ourselves to the principles of the Convention and to the enduring pursuit of a world free of chemical weapons.

Such a tribute would befit the victims of Halabja.