A statement was due to be presented by BG21 member, Hans-C. von Sponeck at a UN Security Council Meeting on 28 February 2022. In the circumstances of the current international situation, he declined to do so. The following message was sent to the President of the UN Security Council.

 SC (Arria) Meeting on CW in Syria

(28 February 2022) 

                                                                                                      A Statement of Withdrawal from Participation

I want to thank the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, for having invited me, yet again, to participate in a review of the protracted and unresolved case of OPCW’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma. I was ready to join such a Security Council briefing. I am no longer able to do so.

As a 83 year old man who has lived the horrors of WWII, who has lost a father, a grandfather and a brother during this war of aggression; who has served in the United Nations for 32 years, I cannot participate in a meeting chaired by a representative of the Russian Federation at a time when the Federation is carrying out a war of aggression against the Ukraine.

It is my deepest hope that the round table for peace replaces the battlefield of war to-day, not tomorrow.

The UN Security Council, especially, The Russian Federation, the PR China and the United States, must not make a mockery of the UN Charter and international law and instead, use  the powers they have, to end  violence, not just in Europe, and   to allow the healing of people’s hearts that are bleeding at this moment  in the Ukraine, in Russia and elsewhere.

Hans-C. von Sponeck

Former UN Assistant Secretary-General &

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (1998-2000)

 The statement that von Sponeck would have delivered can be read here:

                                                        Statement to the UN Security Council on the OPCW, Chemical Weapons & Douma (Syria)

                                                                                                                         28 February 2022

                                             by Hans-C. von Sponeck, Former UN Assistant Secretary-General & UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq                    

In the course of 2021, more analysis has become available documenting the redactions of OPCW reports on Douma and corresponding denials.

It should be recalled that in March 2021 OPCW State Parties & UN GA member states had received the Statement of Concern (SoC) signed by 28 internationally known and respected persons and in support of two OPCW inspectors who had identified major procedural and scientific irregularities during the Douma Fact Finding Mission. The signatories included 4 former OPCW scientists and the OPCW’s first Director-General, Ambassador José Bustani.

Regrettably, Douma must continue to be a subject of ‘major’ concern. This includes the cause of death of 43 Syrian civilians. Allow me to briefly re-state the context:

Credible scientific doubts remain about/ OPCW’s Final Report on Douma in terms of:

  • Allegations of use of chlorine gas; Toxicological conclusions are inconsistent with OPCW’s earlier FFM findings;
  • Especially worrying: the OPCW final report conclusion ignored the testimonies of Damascus-based medical personnel and witnesses whilst those based in Turkey, arranged via the ‘White Helmets’ (an NGO working in opposition areas), were accepted at face value without corroboration.
  • Equally relevant: the ballistics analysis has been seriously questioned by independent experts.

I am not a scientist, but am convinced by the evidence of wrong doing that warrants a re-assessment for Douma. I share former DG/OPCW Bustani’s observation:

“If, OPCW is confident in the robustness of its scientific work on Douma and the integrity of its investigation, then there is little to fear in hearing out its inspectors.”

As the Douma controversy has persisted, the ‘BerlinGroup21’ was created in mid-2021 by Ambassador Bustani, Professor Richard Falk, Emeritus Professor of International Law/ Princeton University and myself as a former UN Assistant Secretary-General.

This small group has as its ‘central’ objectives:

  • To uphold the truth about Douma;
  • To help in restoring the credibility of the OPCW, as an independent, objective and scientifically rigorous organisation;
  • Most importantly, to prevent further misery for the Syrian people and all those suffering in war.

What reactions did the BerlinGroup21 receive with regard to the Statement of Concern? The OPCW refused to look at the ‘Statement of Concern’ and returned to the sender the envelope ‘unopened’! There was no reaction, just silence from the political as well as the operational UN!

Even senior officials, representing the UN as an ‘organisation of the people’ like SG Guterres and HCHR Bachelet, refused to give the BG21, as senders of the Statement of Concern, not even the dignity of an acknowledgment. Under-Secretary-General  for Disarmament Affairs, Isumi Nakamitsu,  in a webinar on Syria  and chemical weapons (which I attended) organized on 22 February last week by the US Arms Control Association on chemical weapons in Syria, did not even mention Douma! The reactions that were received had to do with smearing and threats, not from the public but from government representatives. Ambassador Bustani reminded the BG21 of the frightening statement made by US Ambassador Bolton who told Bustani: “We know where your children live!” A more recent example: German Ambassador Lingner told an international meeting on Douma last year in response to BG21 positions: “There are people who throw mud in the hope that it sticks!”

These are just two examples of the shameful treatment of those who have raised in good faith issues that do not fit foreign policy preferences of some governments. BG21, of course, is disappointed, even shocked but not discouraged and will continue to function as a Secretariat for remedial action on Douma.

Let me end by informing the SC meeting that at the request of MPs of a parliament in Europe, the BG21 has just completed a detailed analysis of OPCW’s handling of Douma. All GA member countries and OPCW will receive this report shortly. There would be no better reaction than governments’ acceptance that this report is worthy of consideration in efforts to bring credible closure to OPCW and Douma.