Disinfo: OPCW smeared whistleblowers, doctored evidence to defend its biased Douma report

Summary

Ian Henderson and “Inspector B,” the former OPCW employees who have publicly questioned the organisation’s report into the alleged chemical attack in Douma, have demanded “a fair, transparent, and scientific hearing.”

The two whistleblowers participated in the mission on the ground (fact-finding mission, or FFM) to determine whether chemical weapons had actually been used by the Syrian government, but were later excluded from the process, while important facts were doctored and omitted from the final version of the OPCW report.

Apart from reiterating their calls for transparency and a scientific hearing, Henderson added new important details about the two cylinders from Douma. One of the most important findings by Henderson was that those cylinders, which rebel groups claimed had discharged chlorine killing several dozens of people, were in fact placed there intentionally, which means the whole “attack” was staged.

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 second paragraph of the claim contains no less than four untrue, previously debunked assertions:

  1. An independent OPCW probe established that neither of the two "whistleblowers" had visited the Douma attack site with a fact-finding mandate: Inspector A (Henderson) "was not a member of the FFM" and "played a minor supporting role in the investigation" (para. 13), whereas Inspector B "never left the command post in Damascus because he had not completed the training required to deploy to the field" (para. 23).
  2. The OPCW's final Douma report did not blame the Syrian government or any other party for the attack. The FFM's mandate was limited to ascertaining "whether there were reasonable grounds to believe that chemical weapons were used" at the site (p. 8, note 9). The claim also contradicts Sputnik's earlier reporting, which stated that the OPCW had "stopped short of apportioning the blame" for the Douma incident. See here for a related debunk.
  3. Neither inspector was "excluded" from the FFM. According to the OPCW investigation, "Inspector A" was employed by the organisation "until May 2019" (para. 11), some two months after the final report had been published. Inspector B, who was involved in the drafting of the interim Douma report, "departed [the OPCW] at the end of August 2018," upon the expiration of his term of employment (para. 21).
  4. The OPCW did not "doctor" or "omit" any evidence it had access to. A press statement by the organisation confirms that "all information was taken into account, deliberated, and weighed when formulating the final report regarding the incident in Douma." According to the OPCW's director-general, the organisation has been targeted by a disinformation campaign aiming specifically to "undermine the official reports of the Fact-Finding Mission about investigations in Syria."

Lastly, Henderson's "new important details about the two cylinders" are neither new nor important. The reference here is to an engineering assessment which was leaked online in May 2019 and falsely presented by Sputnik as a "never-before-seen report by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission." The document's 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. Furthermore, Henderson's assessment never mentions that the cylinders were "placed there intentionally," and it certainly does not leap to the conclusion that their manual placement was evidence of a staged attack.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 190
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 06/03/2020
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: Syria
  • Keywords: false flag, Douma, OPCW, Chemical weapons/attack, Syrian War
  • Outlet: Sputnik News
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Disproof

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