Update on the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident

Paul McKeigue, David Miller, Piers Robinson

Research output: Working paper


As we noted in April 2019, there were defects in the published interim and final Reports of the Fact-Finding Mechanism on the Douma incident that indicated that evidence had been withheld or distorted.
From comparing the original Interim Report drafted in June 2018, the modified report that was intended to be substituted for it, and the published Final Report, it is clear that this was not simply a divergence of opinions between experts. The misrepresentation of evidence in the published Final Report can reasonably be described as fraudulent. Specifically, the following points can be identified:
Quantitative results on the levels of chlorinated organic compounds were suppressed. A false assertion about “high levels” of these compounds had been added to the modified report.
An assessment based on the epidemiology of chlorine release incidents was omitted from the modified report and the Final Report.
On-site assessments that the observations were incompatible with aerial delivery of the cylinders were omitted from the modified report and the Final Report.
The testimony of opposition-linked witnesses interviewed in Turkey was rewritten in the Final Report so as to obscure inconsistencies about the distribution of bodies at Location 2 that would have cast doubt on the reliability of their testimony.
The result of the consultation with medical experts in June 2018, indicating that the victims had not been killed by chlorine, was suppressed and omitted from the timeline of the investigation published in the Final Report.
The internal engineering assessment was excluded from the published Final Report.
In violation of Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Chief of Cabinet allowed US officials to attempt to influence the inspectors in July 2018.
The evidence of fraud in the published report of the Douma investigation means that all other published reports from FFM Team Alpha, including the FFM reports on the alleged chlorine attacks in 2015 and the alleged sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun in 2017, must also be disregarded as unreliable and possibly fraudulent.
The OPCW’s report on 6 February 2020 of what was purported to be an investigation into the leak of the engineering assessment to the Working Group was used instead to smear two of the organization’s most experienced and highly-rated inspectors with false and misleading statements.
It is now clear that the Director-General’s statements on 28 May and 6 June 2019 that the FFM had “examined, weighed and deliberated”, “considered” and “analysed” the engineering assessment were unequivocally false: the Team Leader and Head of the FFM had refused to accept the document in February 2019.
The Douma investigation has been passed to the Identification and Inspection Team (IIT). A brief examination of the careers of the investigators and analysts appointed to the IIT shows that all four of them have serious conflicts of interest. This calls into question their ability to resist pressure to come up with the answers that the influential delegations of the US, UK and France want.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherWorking Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2020

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice


  • Douma
  • Chlorine
  • Alleged chemical attack
  • Propaganda
  • covert action


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