Jul 6, 2018 — INTRODUCTION. This document contains an update on the work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria. (FFM) regarding the alleged use of
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CS-2018-1131(E) distributed 06/07/2018 *CS-2018-1131.E* OPCW Technical Secretariat S/1645/2018 6 July 2018 Original: ENGLISH NOTE BY THE TECHNIC AL SECRETARIAT INTERIM REPORT OF THE OPCW FACT-FINDING MISSION IN SYRIA REGARDING THE INCIDENT OF ALLEGED USE OF TOXIC CHEMICALS AS A WEAPON IN DOUMA, SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC, ON 7 APRIL 2018 1. INTRODUCTION This document contains an update on the work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria (FFM) regarding the alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon in Douma, the Syrian Arab Republic, on 7 April 2018. The work of the FFM was conducted in accordance with preambular paragraph 8 and operative paragraphs 5 and 6 of decision EC-M-48/DEC.1 (dated 4 February 2015) and other relevant decisions of the OPCW Executive Council (hereinafter ﬁthe Councilﬂ), as well as under the Director-G eneral™s authority to seek to uphold at all times the object and purpose of the Chemical Weapons Convention, as reinforced by resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2209 (2015) of th e United Nations Security Council as applicable to this investigati on. The mandates for the investigati on of the alleged incident are referenced in note verbale NV/ODG/214589/18 (dated 10 April 2018) of the Technical Secretariat (hereinafter ﬁthe Secretariatﬂ) and note verbale No. 38 of the Syrian Arab Republic (dated 10 April 2018).
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S/1645/2018 page 2 2. SUMMARY 2.1 On 10 April 2018, the Secretariat and the Permanent Representation of the Syrian Arab Republic to the OPCW exchanged notes verbales regarding the urgent dispatch of an FFM team to Damascus to gather fact s regarding the incident of alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon in Douma on 7 April 2018. An advance team was dispatched on 12 April and a follow-on team the next day, with the full complement arriving in Damascus on 15 April 2018. A second team deployed to a neighbouring country on 16 April to conduct further ac tivities in relation to the allegation. 2.2 The FFM team was not able to enter Douma for almost a week after its arrival, owing to the high security risks to the team, which included the presence of unexploded ordnance, explosives, and sleeper cells still suspected of being active in Douma. On 18 April 2018, during a reconnaissance visit to tw o sites of interest, the security detail was confronted by a hostile crowd and came under fire from small arms and a hand grenade that exploded. The incident reportedly resulted in two fatalities and one injury. 2.3 On 21 April 2018, after security concer ns had been addressed, the FFM team conducted its first visit to one of the allege d sites of interest, and it was deemed an acceptable risk to enter Douma. The FFM team deployed four additional times to other sites of interest over the following 10 days, which included on-site visits to a warehouse and a facility suspected by the aut horities of the Syrian Arab Republic of producing chemical weapons. There were no further security incidents and the FFM team was at all times isolated from local crowds and media personnel during the on-site visits, thereby allowing it to conduc t its activities without interference. At one location, the FFM team was unable to gain access to some apartments at Location 2. The representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic stated that they did not have the authority to enter the locked apartment. 2.4 The FFM activities in Douma included on-site visits to collect environmental samples, the conduct of interviews w ith witnesses, and the colle ction of data. All of the environmental samples were collected by the FFM team in the presence of representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic, following the Organisation™s chain-of-custody procedures. In a neighbour ing country (hereinafter ﬁCountry Xﬂ), biological and environmental samples were gathered or received by the FFM team and interviews with witnesses, including alleged casualties, were conducted. 2.5 The results of the analysis of the prioritised samples submitted to OPCW designated laboratories were received by the FFM team on 22 May 2018. No organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties. Various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from Lo cations 2 and 4, along with residues of explosive. These results are reported in Annex 3. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is ongoing.
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S/1645/2018 page 3 2.6 The FFM team visited Locations 2 and 4, where it observed the presence of an industrial gas cylinder on a top floor patio at Location 2, and the presence of a similar cylinder lying on the bed of a top floor apar tment at Location 4. Close to the location of each cylinder there were crater-like openings in the respective reinforced concrete roofs. Work is ongoing to assess the associ ation of these cylinders with the incident, the relative damage to the cylinders and th e roofs, and how the cylinders arrived at their respective locations. 2.7 Based on the equipment and chemicals observe d during the two on-site visits to the warehouse and the facility suspected by the au thorities of the Syrian Arab Republic of producing chemical weapons, there was no indi cation of either facility being involved in the production of chemical warfare agents. 2.8 The FFM team needs to continue its work to draw final conclusions regarding the alleged incident and, to this e nd, the investigation is ongoing. 3. BACKGROUND 3.1 On 7 April 2018, reports began to circulate on social media and in the press regarding an alleged chemical attack that had ta ken place around 16:00 local time on the same day in Douma, a district of eastern Ghout a in Damascus, the Syrian Arab Republic and another attack the same evening at a pproximately 19:30. Casualty levels ranging from 40 to 70 deaths, including large numbers of children, and hundreds of chemical-related injuries, were reported. There were mixed reports of what toxic chemicals had been used, with some citing chlorine and others citing sarin, or mixtures of chlorine and sarin. Images and videos posted online showed casualties in a residential building as well as victims being treated at a hospital, reportedly for chemical exposure. Photos and videos of cy linders allegedly used in the two attacks were also posted online. 3.2 Widespread condemnation of the incide nt ensued, with armed opposition groups assigning responsibility for the alleged incident to the forces of the Syrian Arab Republic. The Syrian Arab Republic denied the attack and accused the media wing of Jaysh al Islam of fabricating the incident to incriminate the Syrian Arab Republic Government Forces. 3.3 On 10 April 2018, the Secretariat sent note verbale No. NV/ODG/214589/18 to the Syrian Arab Republic expressing its inte ntion to deploy a team to Damascus. This correspondence coincided with note verbale No. 38 from the Permanent Representation of the Syrian Arab Republic to the OPCW requesting that an FFM team be dispatched urgently to visit the town of Douma to verify the information surrounding the alleged use of toxic chemical s on 7 April 2018. On the same day, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW submitted a letter to the Secretariat in which he welcomed the request from the Syrian Arab Republic and pledged to facilitate the work of the FFM. 3.4 An advance FFM team was mobilised and dispatched on 12 April 2018, with a follow-on team dispatched the next day.
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S/1645/2018 page 4 4. AIMS AND SCOPE OF THE FACT-FINDING MISSION 4.1 The aim of the FFM, as specified in mandate FFM/050/18, was to gather facts regarding the incident of alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon on 7 April 2018 in Douma, eastern Ghouta, the Sy rian Arab Republic, as reported in the media, and to report to the Director-General upon conclusion of the FFM activities. The sites for investigation included Damascus and any other relevant sites, subject to consultation with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and in accordance with paragraphs 12 and 13 of the FFM™s terms of reference. All activities of the FFM were to be undertaken in accordance with the relevant Secretariat procedures relating to the conduct of inspections during con tingency operations, as applicable. The operational instructions were to: (a) review and analyse all available informa tion pertaining to the reported incident of alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon; (b) collect testimonies from persons alleged to have been affected by the use of toxic chemicals as a weapon, including those who underwent treatment; from eyewitnesses to the alleged use of to xic chemicals; from medical personnel who had provided treatment to or came into contact with persons who may have been affected by the alleged use of toxic chemicals; (c) where possible and deemed necessary , carry out medical examinations, including autopsies, and collect biomedi cal samples of those alleged to have been affected; (d) if possible, visit hospitals and other locations as deemed relevant to the conduct of its investigations; (e) examine and, if possible, collect copi es of the hospital records including patient registers, treatment records, a nd any other relevant records as deemed necessary; (f) examine and, if possible, collect c opies of any other documentation and records as deemed necessary; (g) take photographs and video recordings and examine and, if possible, collect copies of video and telephone records; (h) if possible and deemed necessary, physically examine and collect samples from remnants of munitions, devices, cy linders, containers, etc. alleged to have been used during the in cident under investigation; (i) if possible and deemed necessary, collect environmental samples at or from the alleged points of the incident and surrounding area; and (j) arrange transport for the off-site analysis of the collected samples.
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S/1645/2018 page 5 4.2 On 20 April 2018, the Syrian Arab Republic submitted a note verbale to the Secretariat formally requesting the Director-General to instruct the FFM team to carry out a visit, within the framework of its mission, to gather facts surrounding the allegations of 7 April 2018, to a warehouse su spected by the authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic of storing ch emicals related to the produc tion of chemical weapons. 4.3 Two further mandates (FFM/049/18 and FFM/051/18) were issued by the Director-General instructing the FFM t eam to conduct activities in Country X in relation to the investigation of alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon in the Syrian Arab Republic on 7 April 2018. 5. PRE-DEPLOYMENT ACTIVITIES AND TIMELINE 5.1 Following reports in the media of th e alleged incident on 7 April 2018, the Information Cell of the Secretariat immediately informed the FFM team and initiated a search of open-source information to assess the credibility of the allegation. The major sources comprised news media, blogs, and the websites of various non-governmental organisations. The assessmen t by the Information Cell was that the credibility of the allegation was high. Based on this information, the Director-General initiated an on-site investigation. 5.2 An FFM team comprising nine inspectors and two interpreters was mobilised on 9 April 2018 and pre-deployme nt activities commenced immediately. Preparations were made to deploy an advance team of three inspectors and an interpreter on 12 April and a follow-on team on the next day. The team was briefed by the Information Cell on all relevant informa tion that had been gathered to date. 6. SECURITY AND ACCESS TO THE SITES OF THE ALLEGED INCIDENTS 6.1 Given the recent military activities and the volatile situation in Douma at the time of the FFM deployment, security and safety considerations were of paramount importance. Considerable time and effort were invested in discussions and planning to mitigate the inherent security risks to the FFM team and others deploying into Douma. According to Syrian Arab Republic and Russian Military Police representatives, there were a number of una cceptable risks to the team, including mines and explosives that still needed to be cleared, a risk of explosions, and sleeper cells still suspected of being active in Douma. This assessment was shared by the representative of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS). Moreover, the operation to evacuate residents who had accepted an offer to leave Douma was ongoing, using the same ro ad the team would have to take. 6.2 At the outset, the formal position of the FFM team, as instructed by the Director-General, was that security of th e mission should be the responsibility of the Syrian Arab Republic. During the initial meetings in Damascus, the FFM team was informed by Syrian and Russian representatives that the Syrian Arab Republic could guarantee the safety of the FFM team only if the security was provided jointly with the Russian Military Police.
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S/1645/2018 page 6 6.3 Following consultations with OPCW Headquarters it was agreed between the Secretariat, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Russian Military Police, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), and UNDSS representatives that security within Douma could be provided by the Russian Military Police. This was formalised on 16 April 2018. Consequently, it was agreed th at the Syrian Arab Republic would provide security from the hotel where the inspectors were staying to the final checkpoint at El Wafadin befo re entering Douma. From that point on, the Syrian Arab Republic would relinquish responsibility for s ecurity to the Russian Military Police. It was also agreed that the FFM team would be accompanied by Syrian Arab Republic representatives during the on-site activ ities, with Russian personnel limited to providing security. 6.4 During the reconnaissance visit by UND SS on 18 April 2018 to assess the first two locations planned to be visited the following day, the security detail was confronted by a hostile crowd and came under fire fro m small arms and a hand grenade that exploded at Location 2 (see Figure 2 in s ection 8 below). The incident reportedly resulted in two fatalities and an injury to a Russian soldier. 6.5 Following the incident, the planned deploy ment of the FFM team was postponed until the security situation could be reassessed. Additional measures to mitigate the high security risks were proposed by the UNDSS representative, which included: (a) clearing the areas to be visited by the FFM team; (b) securing the areas during the 24-hour period before deployment; (c) increasing the number of escorts and having advance teams from the UNDSS and the Russian Military Police monitor the area prior to the arrival of the team at the sites; (d) using the police force for crowd control; (e) minimising the movement of civilians near the areas of interest given the possibility of suicide bombers getting within close proximity of the inspection team; and (f) deploying snipers on rooftops around the sites of interest. 6.6 New routes of access to the locations of interest were identified and modifications to the initial FFM deployment plans were formulated. These included reducing the size of the FFM teams deploying to the field to facilitate better security control and limiting the number of sites to be visited during each deployment. All parties agreed that media reports and public pronouncemen ts on operational aspects of the FFM were compounding the security risk for th e team and efforts were made to mitigate this risk element. 6.7 Once the security reassessment had been concluded and the proposed additional mitigation measures implemented, the FFM team deployed to the sites of investigation in accordance with the updated priorities and proposed schedule.
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S/1645/2018 page 8 Activities 7.6 The individual activities of the FFM were conducted in accordance with OPCW guidelines as well as SOPs and WIs (Annex 1). 7.7 The activities included: (a) collecting environmental samples at sites relevant to the alleged incident, namely Locations 1, 2, and 4, as well as at locations reported by the Syrian Arab Republic as being a suspected ch emical weapons production facility and warehouse; (b) receiving and documenting biomedical and environmental samples brought to Country X by alleged casualties or witne sses, as well as overseeing the direct taking of blood samples; (c) taking photographs and collecting data on the cylinders found at Locations 2 and 4, as well as the physical surroundings; (d) taking photographs and collecting data from a facility and a warehouse suspected by the authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic of producing chemical weapons; (e) conducting interviews with medical staf f, casualties, first responders and witnesses of the alleged chemical attack in Douma; (f) reviewing open-source materials; and (g) the tagging of two cylinders. 7.8 The possibility of exhuming bodies from mass graves to collect biomedical samples and examining bodies reportedly exposed to toxic chemicals from the alleged attack on 7 April 2018 was considered by the Secretariat. The intention to do so was communicated to the Syrian Arab Repub lic in note verbale NV/ODG/214827/18, and preliminary preparations were undertaken by the Secretariat for this eventuality. 8. FACTUAL FINDINGS Alleged sites 8.1 The sites visited during the FFM deployment included the hospital where victims were allegedly treated for chemical exposur e (Location 1), the re sidential block with the cylinder on the balcony (Location 2), and the apartment with the cylinder lying on a bed (Location 4). Location 3 was initially considered a site of interest but was discarded on the basis of subsequent inform ation. Two other locations, a facility and a warehouse, were visited to gather informa tion to assess any possible connection with the manufacture of chemical weapons.
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S/1645/2018 page 10 8.3 The local meteorological conditions on 7 April 2018 around the time of the alleged incident, as registered in open sources (dar ksky.net), are shown in Table 1 below. TABLE 1: LOCAL METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS ON 7 APRIL 2018 Time Temperature Wind Direction Wind Speed Precipitation Clouds Humidity 19:00 26°C From SE 11 km/h 0.0 mm overcast 27 % Sampling 8.4 The FFM team formulated detailed sampling plans for each site of allegation. The plans relied on robust scientif ic principles, supported where necessary and possible by peer-reviewed scientific literature or proven experience, to identify sample types and locations of greatest potential probative value to the mission. 8.5 The team executed the original sampling plans to the extent possible, adapting to actual conditions on site where necessary. 8.6 Given the number of locations visited a nd the diversity of potential evidentiary material available, over 100 sa mples in total were collected and transported to the OPCW Laboratory. To expedite the analysis of environmental samples considered at this stage to be of the greatest probative value or of the highest susceptibility to degradation, 31 samples were selected for the first round of analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories. The results of analysis are presented in Annex 3. Analysis results 8.7 The results of analysis of the prioritised samples submitted to the designated laboratories were received by the FFM team on 22 May 2018. No organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties. Various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from Lo cations 2 and 4, along with residues of explosive. These results are reported in Annex 3. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is ongoing. Physical data collection 8.8 Aside from sampling, a large volume of information was gathered by the FFM team and included photographs, video recordings, detection measurements, dimensions of the cylinders and attached metallic structure, and the spatial arrangement in the environment of the cylinders. Location 2 (cylinder on the roof) 8.9 The team deployed to Location 2 (N 33 0 34™ 25.6ﬂ, E 36 0 24™ 17.3ﬂ) on 21 April 2018. 8.10 During the visit to Location 2, Syrian Arab Republic representatives did not provide the access requested by the FFM team to some apartments within the building, which were closed at the time. The Syrian Arab Re public representatives stated that they did not have the authority to force entry into the locked apartments. This situation was relayed to OPCW Headquarters during th e post-deployment de brief that same evening.
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S/1645/2018 page 11 8.11 The FFM had full access to other areas of interest within the same building, namely the balcony where the cylinder had allegedl y impacted, the apartment directly below this, and the basement of the same apartment block. 8.12 Work is in progress regarding the location of the cylinder, its provenance, and the damage to both the reinforced concrete balcony and the cylinder. A comprehensive analysis by experts in the relevant fields will be required to provide a competent assessment of the relative damage. Location 4 (cylinder on the bed) 8.13 The team deployed to Location 4 (N 33° 34™ 24ﬂ, E 36° 23™ 41.1ﬂ) on 25 April 2018. The team gathered a broad selection of sa mple types, took videos, photos, detection measurements, and relevant dimensions of the location and the cylinder. 8.14 Work is in progress regarding the location of the cylinder, its provenance, and the damage to the reinforced concrete roof terrace and the cylinder. It is planned that a comprehensive analysis will be conducted by suitable experts, possibly in metallurgy and structural or mechanical engineering, to provide an assessment of how the cylinders arrived at its location, in addition to the observed damage to the bed and other furniture of the room, the roof, and the cylinder itself. Location 1 (hospital) 8.15 The FFM team visited Location 1 (N 33° 34™ 27.3ﬂ, E 36° 24™ 25ﬂ) on 1 May 2018. The hospital operates in the basements of two multistorey buildings connected by an underground tunnel. The FFM team was guided through the hospital, including underground access tunnels, and took environm ental samples and held discussions with medical personnel. Warehouse and facility suspected of producing chemical weapons 8.16 At the warehouse and the facility suspected by the authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic of producing chemical weapons in Douma, information was gathered to assess whether these facilitie s were associated with the production of chemical weapons or toxic chemicals that could be used as weapons. From the information gathered during the two on-site visits to these locations, there was no indication of either facility being involved in the produc tion of chemical warfare agents or toxic chemicals for use as weapons. Interviews 8.17 The FFM team interviewed a total of 34 individuals; 13 of these interviews were conducted in Damascus and the remainder in Country X. Analysis of the testimonies is ongoing.
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