Disinfo: Douma chemical attack never took place

Summary

It is now clear that the April 2018 chemical attack in Douma never happened. The management of OPCW has suppressed the findings of its own inspectors and is simply covering up for the criminal elements who staged the Douma incident.

A group of witnesses to the alleged attack, who were invited by the Russian delegation to the OPCW headquarters in The Hague, said on 28 April 2018 that they did not notice any signs of a poison gas attack.

Then, in May 2019, a leaked OPCW document concluded that the two chlorine cylinders which were allegedly dropped onto the Douma site from aircraft had actually been manually placed on the ground.

The OPCW noted in its interim report that “no organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties.” The inspectors furthermore noted that the dead people in the photos and videos didn’t look like victims from “chlorine-containing choking or blood agents such as chlorine gas, phosgene or cyanogen chloride”.

How, then, did the 35 victims of the Douma incident die? Raed Saleh, leader of the White Helmets, told Reuters he pinpointed their burial place to OPCW. Nevertheless, the chemical watchdog chose not to conduct exhumations.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives attacking the independence and integrity of the OPCW; lending credence to the claim that the 2018 Douma attack was staged; and absolving the Syrian regime of responsibility for chemical attacks in general.

The OPCW's supposed complicity in "suppressing" the truth about the Douma incident is a standard talking point in pro-Kremlin reporting on Syria. See e.g. here, here, here, and here for our previous debunking of this narrative.

The alleged witnesses whom the Russian delegation paraded in The Hague in April 2018 gave their testimony in the informal conditions of a press briefing, whereas requests by OPCW inspectors to interview them first were rejected. For this reason, the chemical watchdog's final report on the Douma attack treats their appearance at the Moscow-organised press briefing as open source material (p. 34) which may be used only "for comparative purposes" (p. 9) but not to formulate conclusions, in line with OPCW verification procedures (p. 24).

Regarding the leaked engineering assessment, its conclusion that the cylinders could not have been dropped by air was addressed in the final Douma report (Annex 6, pp. 55-6) and comprehensively refuted by Bellingcat.

The observation that "no organophosphorus nerve agents" were detected at the site features in the final Douma report as well (p. 3), and it does not contradict the OPCW's conclusions. The final report's main finding is that the toxic chemical used at the site was likely molecular chlorine (p. 4), which is a non-phosphorus compound. Moreover, the first draft of the interim report merely states that "some signs and symptoms [...] are not consistent with exposure to chlorine-containing choking or blood agents" (p. 3, emphasis added), and that "the investigation remains on-going" (ibid.).

The article falsely claims that the OPCW "chose" not to exhume the bodies. In fact, the final report states that the Technical Secretariat communicated its intention to examine the bodies in a note verbale to Damascus (p. 10), but "the possibility was eventually not explored any further" given the delays in the Syrian government's response and the amount of "time elapsed since the alleged incident." The importance of timely collection and analysis of human samples is emhpasised in Annex 4 (pp. 42-3).

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 193
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 15/04/2020
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: Syria
  • Keywords: false flag, Douma, OPCW, Chemical weapons/attack, Syrian War
  • Outlet: Sputnik News
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