PRESS RELEASE / January 27, 2023

OPCW report attributing Douma chemical attack to Syrian regime must pave way for justice for victims

Today’s findings by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluding that the Syrian Air Force were perpetrators of the April 2018 Douma chemical attack should spur the international community to take concrete action to end the use of chemical weapons and hold perpetrators of such atrocities to account after more than a decade of inaction. The report comes after years of disinformation and online conspiracies that have sought to deny the truth about the attack.  

At least 43 people were killed and many more injured when a Syrian Air Force helicopter dropped two cylinders of chlorine gas on two apartment buildings in a residential part of Douma on 7 April 2018. 

Responding to the news Sara Hashash, Communications Director at The Syria Campaign said: 

“This report confirms what witnesses and survivors have long since made clear – that the Syrian regime has perpetrated horrific crimes against its own people using every weapon at its disposal. After years of denial and disinformation the truth about the Douma attack can no longer be ignored.

“Victims, witnesses and first responders to the Douma chemical attack and their families have gone through years of intimidation by the Syrian regime and psychological harm online caused by Syrian and Russian-backed harassment, hate, and denial on social media platforms.

“This report must serve as a vindication for the truth and for the brave survivors of chemical attacks who have faced years of online hate simply for telling their stories, amid a failure of governments and social media companies to stem the spread of hate-filled lies and conspiracy theories.”

The Syria Campaign’s report Deadly Disinformation identified the highest volume of disinformation on Syria was around the 2018 Douma attack: the six most retweeted and shared posts between 2015 and 2021 all claim the attack was faked or that the international investigation that confirmed the attack took place was compromised.

“The OPCW report’s conclusions are also a painful reminder of the international community’s ongoing failure to take any concrete steps towards accountability for the most heinous of crimes. It’s appalling that despite the growing body of evidence of the regime’s crimes, Assad remains in power today and more states are seeking to normalize ties with a regime with blood on its hands,” said Sara Hashash. 

Radi Saad, Hazmat Team Coordinator at Syria’s Civil DefenceThe White Helmets said:

 “More than 1,763 days on from the Douma massacre, the painful memory of the 43 civilians who lost their lives due to chlorine gas suffocation has not faded. This was a systematic crime and just one attack in a long list of crimes perpetrated by the regime. Despite the regime’s repeated denial that the Douma attack ever took place, the truth is always revealed in the end. The Syrian regime has carried out more than 200 chemical attacks as well as countless other violations and crimes under international law, with support of its Russian ally. There is no shortage of evidence of the regime’s crimes; what is lacking is any political will on an international stage for accountability and to achieve justice for victims.” 

Saleem Namour, a founding member of the Association of Victims of Chemical Attacks said:  

“This report is a blow to the regime’s repeated attempts to obscure the truth over the Douma attack from tampering with the crime scene to obstructing the entry of the investigation committee and coercing medical staff and paramedics to offer misleading accounts of the events. The report is an important but small step towards accountability. Victims of chemical attacks are still waiting for justice, we need real  concrete action to be taken to activate mechanisms of accountability and international justice for this to be achieved.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with spokespeople please contact: [email protected]