The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has made misleading statements about two veteran inspectors who questioned the OPCW’s probe into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Douma in 2018, according to documents obtained by the independent website Grayzone.
The documents, in particular, cast a long shadow on OPCW Director General Fernando Arias’ claims that one of the now retired inspectors, Ian Henderson, “was not a member of the FFM” [Fact-Finding Mission], who merely “accompanied the FFM to certain sites of interest” in a “minor supporting role”.
According to the papers, Arias also minimised the role of a second OPCW official, who was only identified as “Inspector B”.
OPCW Director General Arias claimed that Henderson "was not a member of the FFM" [Fact-Finding Mission] in Douma. [Pic 1]— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) May 6, 2020
False: contemporaneous OPCW documents from the Douma mission explicitly list Henderson as an FFM member. [Pic 2 & 3] pic.twitter.com/Kqni9NgGIS
As far as Henderson is concerned, The Grayzone had obtained the so-called “F038” notification document which indicates that the man was joining the OPCW’s Douma mission as a member of the FFM team.
“Please note that Inspector Henderson, Ian will be part of the team conducting the technical secretrariat visits", the leaked communique reads.
Another document, a letter dating back to April 2018, shows that the OPCW’s Office of Director General (ODG) requested Henderson lead inspections at three key locations in Douma. “[…] ODG is happy if the visits to the cylinders and hospital are led by Ian Henderson”, according to the letter.
OPCW head Arias claimed Ian Henderson "played a minor supporting role" in Douma probe & merely "accompanied the FFM to certain sites", & "assisted." [Pic 1-2]— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) May 6, 2020
False: OPCW leaders directed Henderson to lead Douma mission's most critical inspections: cylinders & hospital. [Pic 3] pic.twitter.com/sSssxZgS38
The Grayzone also cited Henderson as saying in his letter to Arias that he and Inspector B are “long-serving and dedicated OPCW supporters” who have “reams of documents” that “reflect a history of service at the highest level in terms of qualifications, skills, expertise, leadership, integrity, and professionalism throughout our time at the OPCW”.
“Does this not place the efforts by some to smear our reputations, on questionable ground? […] does this not lead to the question: Why would a pair of the top Inspection Team Leaders, both with impeccable records… suddenly ‘go rogue’?” Henderson pointed out.
OPCW Whistleblower Bashes Chemical Watchdog’s ‘Sanitised’ Douma Report
The Grayzone disclosed the documents after Henderson blasted the OPCW earlier this year for releasing what he described as a “sanitised” report on the alleged 2018 Douma chemical weapons attack. Henderson claimed that the report omitted key details from its own fact-finding team which he claimed had cast serious doubt on whether the chemical attack took place at all.
“The findings in the final [Fact Finding Mission] report were contradictory, were a complete turnaround with what the team had understood collectively during and after the Douma deployments”, Henderson said in a video address to members of the UN Security Council.
The former OPCW inspector insisted that the report blatantly disregarded “findings, facts, information, data or analysis” collected by the team and related to witness testimony, toxicology studies, chemical analysis, and ballistics.
In March 2019, the OPCW issued a report on the Douma incident, asserting that chlorine was "most likely" the chemical agent used in the alleged chemical weapons attack, despite evidence provided by Russia and Syria suggesting that it was staged by the White Helmets NGO.
Washington and its allies blamed the Syrian government for the Douma incident, which was followed by the US, France, and the UK launching joint strikes against Syria in April 2018.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has, in turn, persistently accused the US, the UK, and France of using "stories about chemical weapons" as a pretext for military intervention in the country.