“Restoring the credibility and integrity of the opcw”

First OPCW Director General Jose Bustani during his statement to the UN Security Council. Picture: Screenshot

Declaration on the investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons of an alleged poison gas use in Douma, Syria, in 2018

We would like to express our deep concern about the ongoing controversy and political fallout surrounding the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its investigation into the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, on 7. April 2018 gives.

Since the OPCW published its final report in March 2019, a number of disturbing developments have raised serious and significant concerns about the conduct of this investigation. These developments include cases in which OPCW inspectors involved in the investigation found significant procedural and scientific irregularities, the absence of a substantial amount of evidentiary documentation, and made incriminating statements at UN Security Council meetings.

It is now common knowledge that some high-ranking inspectors involved in the investigation, one of them in a central position, reject the manner in which the investigation reached its conclusions.

The OPCW management is accused of accepting unfounded and possibly manipulated findings, which has serious geopolitical and security implications. Repeated calls by some members of the OPCW Executive Council to allow all inspectors to be heard were blocked.

The inspectors’ concerns are shared by the first Director of the OPCW, Jose Bustani, and a considerable number of leading figures have called on the OPCW to be transparent and accountable. Bustani was recently personally prevented by key members of the Security Council from attending a hearing on the Syria dossier.

OPCW leadership silent on allegations

In a personal appeal to the Director General, Ambassador Bustani noted that the organization need not have any difficulty in meeting the inspectors’ concerns should it be confident of conducting its Douma investigation.

Unfortunately, the top of the OPCW management has so far failed to respond to the accusations directed at them. And although it has made statements to the contrary, the management – as far as we have heard – has never allowed the concerns of the members of the investigation team to be properly heard, nor has it met with most of them.

Instead, it has dodged the ie and launched an investigation into a leaked document related to the Douma case. And it has openly condemned its most experienced inspectors for having been deceived.

The most recent development is particularly disturbing: a draft of a letter, which – as it was falsely suggested – was allegedly sent by the Director General to one of the dissenting inspectors, was leaked to an open source, a research website (Bellingcat embarrasses itself with fake leak about OPCW).

The latter published the letter, disclosing the identity of the inspector in question. This was a blatant attempt to smear the former senior OPCW scientist in an.

Even more alarming is that recently, in a series of BBC 4 radio an anonymous source was heard saying that he had knowledge of the OPCW investigation in Douma. In the interview with the BBC this source discredited not only the two inspectors who expressed a dissenting opinion, but also Ambassador Bustani himself.

Critical OPCW Inspectors Receive Support

It is also important to note that in December 2020, information came to light that a number of senior OPCW officials were supporting one of the OPCW inspectors who had made allegations of abuse of authority. The matter threatens to seriously damage the reputation and credibility of the OPCW and undermine its central role in the pursuit of international peace and security.

It is simply untenable for a scientific organization such as the OPCW to deny its own scientists an open response to criticism and concerns, while at the same time being associated with attempts to discredit and defame those same scientists.

Moreover, with the ongoing controversy surrounding the Douma report, concerns about the reliability of earlier Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) reports are also increasing. This includes the investigation into the alleged attack on (the Syrian town of) Khan Shaykhun in 2017.

We are convinced that the interests of the OPCW are best served by the Director-General providing a transparent and neutral forum in which the concerns of all investigators can be heard, in addition to ensuring a fully objective and scientific investigation.

To this end, we call on the Director-General of the OPCW to show courage and address the problems that exist within his organization regarding this investigation and to ensure that member states and the United Nations are briefed accordingly. We hope and believe that in this way the credibility and integrity of the OPCW can be restored.

Signatories:

  • Jose Bustani, Ambassador of Brazil, first Director General of the OPCW and former Ambassador to Great Britain and France.
  • Professor Noam Chomsky, honorary professor at the University of Arizona and professor (em).) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  • Andrew Cockburn, Washington Editor, Harper’s Magazine.
  • Daniel Ellsberg, PERI Distinguished Research Fellow, UMass Amherst. Former U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Auben official. Former official of the U.S. Department of Defense (GS-18) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (FSR-1).
  • Professor Richard Falk, Professor of Constitutional Law (emeritus).) Princeton University.
  • Tulsi Gabbard, former presidential candidate and Congresswoman for Hawaii.
  • Professor Dr. Ulrich Gottstein, for the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, IPPNW-Germany.
  • Katharine Gun, former GCHQ (UK government) whistleblower.
  • Denis J. Halliday, UN Assistant Secretary General (1994-98).
  • Professor Pervez Houdbhoy, Quaid-e-Azam University and ex Pugwash.
  • Kristinn Hrafnnson, Editor-in-Chief Wikileaks.
  • Dr. Sabine Kruger, Analytical Chemist, former OPCW Inspector 1997-2009.
  • Ray McGovern, former CIA presidential adviser; co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
  • Elizabeth Murray, former NSA Middle East officer, member (retired) of NSA; Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity; Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
  • Professor Gotz Neuneck, Pugwash Council, German Pugwash Board of Directors.
  • Dirk van Niekerk, former OPCW investigative team leader, head of OPCW special missions in Iraq.
  • John Pilger, journalist and filmmaker, awarded Emmy and Bafta.
  • Professor Theodore A. Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and National Security Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  • Dr. Antonius Roof, former OPCW investigation team leader and head of industry inspections.
  • Professor John Avery Scales, Professor, Pugwash Council and Danian Pugwash Board of Directors.
  • Hans von Sponeck, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator (Iraq).
  • Alan Steadman, Chemical Weapons Munitions Specialist, Former OPCW Investigation Team Leader, UNSCOM Inspector.
  • Jonathan Steele, journalist, author.
  • Roger Waters, musician and activist.
  • Lord West of Spithead, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff 2002-2006.
  • Oliver Stone, film director, producer and writer.
  • Col. (ret.) Lawrence B. Wilkerson, U.S. Army, visiting professor at William and Mary College, former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
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