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Chemical weapons expert at the UN: Douma attack didn't happen

January 28, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Men, members of Syrian civil defense organization, White Helmets let a white pigeon to fly for people who lost his life in chemical attack that in the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus, Syria on 22 August, 2017 [Amer Almohibany/Anadolu Agency]

Last week a former lead investigator for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) testified at the UN that no scientific evidence exists to support claims that a chemical gas attack took place in Douma, Syria, in April 2018.

Ian Henderson who worked 12 years for the international watchdog body served as the OPCW’s inspection team leader and engineering expert and assisted in the fact-finding-mission (FFM) in Douma.

Speaking before a Security Council session on 20 January, Henderson said: “We had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred,” referring to the FFM team in Douma, adding that the evidence he compiled “provided further support for the view that there had not been a chemical attack.”

READ: Syria, where chemical weapons watchdogs become weaponised

However, OPCW management had repressed his group’s scientific research and replaced them with another team who produced another report that contradicted their initial findings.

These allegations were also stated in a leaked engineering assessment in May of last year, followed by additional whistleblowers coming forward, accusing the organisation of repressing evidence and being under pressure by US government officials. The so-called “Douma docs” are on Wikileaks and include internal emails revealing evidence of doctored reports and internal suppression.

Henderson’s testimony was conducted using a process known as the “Arria formula”, which enables invited “outsider” witnesses a means to address the Security Council. He was invited by Russia and was supposed to testify in person, however, the US failed to issue Henderson, who is British, a visa for the occasion and instead he provided a videotaped testimony.

The Douma incident was used as the justification for the airstrikes carried out by the US, the UK, and France in breach of Syria’s sovereignty and international law, having not been authorised by the Security Council.

READ: Assad accuses chemical watchdog of giving in to US demands

Chemical attack on Syria - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Chemical attack in Syria – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]