Remarks by Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü

Director-General, OPCW

Book Launch for Innocence Slaughtered

2 December 2015

Deputy Mayor,

Dr Zanders,


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for gathering for today’s event.

Ambassador Üzümcü addressing the audience, Ieper Room, OPCW

I welcome those who are visiting the OPCW for the first time. This is one of our busiest weeks of the year, when our Member States convene to consider a range of issues facing the OPCW. With such a large gathering of representatives from across the globe, it is also a fitting moment for today’s event.

The destructive power of chemical weapons is well known to all of us. A century ago, for the first time, these brutal weapons unleashed death and suffering in the midst of World War I. Over the decades that followed, chemical weapons continued to be used with horrific effect across the globe. And just a few weeks ago, the OPCW once again confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Syria. History will, I am sure, kindly judge our effects to ban these brutal weapons. But though great progress towards their elimination has been achieved, the recent events in Syria underscore a sobering reality. Our work in chemical disarmament remains unfinished.

At a time when we map our future course towards complete and irreversible chemical disarmament, I warmly welcome the appearance of this most excellent book, Innocence Slaughtered, a project initiated by the late Professor Koen Koch and finalised by Dr Jean-Pascal Zanders.

This publication assembles some of the finest historical research examining the dawn of chemical warfare. This scholarly work does so in two distinct ways. First, the book recounts, in grim detail, the tragic scenes and impact of the initial deployments of chemical weapons in the military theatre. It draws on first-hand accounts of soldiers and civilians, and also from newspapers of the time, to remind us of the indiscriminate cruelty of chemical warfare.

Several articles also examine the effects that chemical weapons had on societal attitudes towards the role of scientific innovations in armed conflict. And, perhaps most important to our work at the OPCW, the book acquaints us with the origins of our modern-day movement to eliminate chemical weapons once and for all.

In its thorough examination of the origin and impact of chemical warfare, Innocence Slaughtered is a deeply impressive work, and one that should be required reading for those who seek to meet our future challenges in disarmament. For understanding history is essential to planning for the future. Or as Winston Churchill put it, The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.

I thank the authors of the book’s chapters, some of whom have joined us today, for their thoroughly researched and captivating accounts.

I also would like to recognize the efforts of Dr Jean-Pascal Zanders, who is a noted expert in our field. Jean-Pascal’s encyclopedic knowledge of the history of chemical and biological weapons, and efforts to outlaw them, is a valuable asset to our community, and he has been a trusted friend and adviser to the OPCW over the years. I applaud his initiative to take up the work of the late Dutch professor Koen Koch, who had conceptualized and overseen this project in its initial phases.

I also wish to recognize the contributions made by In Flanders Fields Museum to this project, and further note the museum’s admirable efforts to preserve and portray these events for generations to come.

I wish you the greatest success with the launch of Innocence Slaughtered. I am sure it will prove an invaluable resource for our work towards achieving a world free from chemical weapons.

Thank you.