The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) is neither in crisis nor at a cross roads, and hyperbole to the contrary is unhelpful. Yet it is perhaps because the BWC continues to trundle steadily along towards an undecided destination, that the period of relative calm should be exploited to bolster the Convention, to future proof the BWC and the norm against the hostile exploitation of infection that it embodies. To do this, there is a need for a more ambitious approach. The first two intersessional processes may have proved unexpectedly fruitful; however, this approach appears to have moved beyond its ‘best-before-date’ and gone stale. Accordingly, several states have proposed alternative approaches to building the BWC: France has proposed and piloted a peer review mechanism, something taken further forward by the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg; the Czech Republic along with Canada and Switzerland have explored compliance assessment; Russia has proposed returning to the 1994 mandate (see discussion at Days of Future Past); and several countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada, Finland, Lithuania, Spain and the US, have constructively engaged in a debate on compliance. Although there is little agreement on exactly what should be done, there does appear to be an emerging critical mass, seeking to move beyond ‘tinkering around the edges’ and, once again, deal with the difficult topic of compliance.
Russia proposed to return to negotiations on a legally binding protocol to strengthen treaty implementation at the Meeting of Experts of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), which was held in Geneva from 4–8 August. Its informal note discusses the creation of an international body, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Biological Weapons (OPBW). It also tackles two frustrations prevalent among states parties: the convention’s institutional deficit and the lack of any progress in the so-called intersessional process—a series of annual Meetings of Experts (MX) during the summer followed by Meetings of States Parties (MSP) in December in between the quinquennial review conferences.
I am not the only person who is concerned by the banalisation of tear gas as a riot control agent. Over the past few years, the intensity with which such agents have been used has increased markedly, to the point that whole sections of cities now routinely become saturated with the toxic chemicals. In particular Michael Crowley of Bradford University’s Non-Lethal Weapons Project has published studies on the fast technological development and growing global markets of riot control agents and their delivery systems: one in collaboration with the Omega Research Foundation, and one, co-authored with Dana Perkins, then expert of the 1540 Committee, for the Biochemical Security 2030 Project, University of Bath. Likewise, the Physicians for Human Rights issued a report in 2012 on the Bahrain government’s indiscriminate use of tear gas, and in 2013 another one on tear gas excesses in Turkey.
Since my last update on the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapon (CW) capacities in May, all precursor chemicals have finally left the country. Some have been shipped to facilities in Finland and the USA, where they are in the process of being destroyed. The United Kingdom meanwhile completed the destruction of 190 tonnes of chemicals at an incinerator in Ellesmere Port.
As of 7 August, 74.2% of Syria’s entire stockpile of chemical warfare agent precursors have been destroyed. Other chemicals are meanwhile being neutralised on board of the US vessel Cape Ray in the Mediterranean, and the resulting reaction mass will eventually be commercially incinerated too.
Jean Pascal ZANDERS
Senior Research Associate
Fondation pour la recherche stratégique
Enhancing compliance of the BTWC
through national implementation and other means
Brussels, 24 April 2014
The workshop, organised by the EU Non-Proliferation Consortium in cooperation with the European External Action Service (EEAS), was held in Brussels on 24 April 2014. Its purpose was to have an in-depth brainstorming session on the future of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) with officials from EU Member States.
The event was the 1st Ad Hoc Seminar to be organised under the new Council Decision 014/129/CFSP of 10 March 2014 supporting the continued activities of the EU Non-Proliferation Consortium.
The Asahi Shimbun (Japan) is publishing a set of four articles on the Advisory Opinion on the legality of nuclear weapon use in armed conflict issued by the International Court of Justice in 1996.
I am not sure whether they make up the total package, but in case of future additions the articles can also be accessed from: http://ajw.asahi.com/tag/NUKE%20JUDGEMENT
Announcement to media on last consignment of chemicals leaving Syria
Monday, 23 June 2014
Just under 9 months ago in October, I addressed you members of the press – in this same place, here in The Hague – to announce the deployment of the first OPCW inspectors to Syria to begin an historic and unprecedented mission. The mission was to destroy the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic.
A major landmark in this mission has been reached today. The last of the remaining chemicals identified for removal from Syria were loaded this afternoon aboard the Danish ship Ark Futura. The ship made its last call at the port of Latakia in what has been a long and patient campaign in support of this international endeavour.
By Marco Roscini, 5 June 2014
[Marco Roscini, Reader in International Law at the University of Westminster, wrote this rejoinder on Arms Control Law. It is reproduced here with permission, as it forms part of a broader discussion about useful insights for nuclear disarmament to be derived from chemical and biological weapon disarmament. – Jean Pascal]
[This contribution appeared orginally in Arms Control Law, and was in reply to a discussion on the blog. Links to the original arguments are included. - Jean Pascal]
In this particular case, Marco’s application of the notion to a single article rather than the totality of the treaty puzzles me. I would tend to agree with Dan’s counterpoint. However, Dan then refers to the CWC in its entirety to draw an analogy. In my mind a bit problematic for two reasons:
Syria has now missed about every single deadline since it was unable to move the Priority 1 chemicals out of the country by the end of last year. These even include renegotiated time frames and the self-imposed final date of 27 April. One more fixed date is pending: 30 June, by which time all precursor chemicals should have been neutralised.
It would now seem that the world will sigh with relief if everything is aboard the Danish and Norwegian freighters by the end of next month. US officials envisage 60 working days to neutralise the volume of precursor chemicals and hydrolyse the mustard agent on board the US ship Cape Ray. The end of this mission could be pushed back even further if factors such as bad weather or sea states exceeding safety standards interrupt activities. In addition, the original schedule foresaw incineration of the reaction mass by the end of 2014. However, one of the companies selected by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Finland’s Ekokem, requires at least nine months. This potentially pushes completion of the disarmament tasks agreed in the US-Russian framework agreement of September last year into the second quarter of 2015. Consequently, the disarmament mandate established by UN Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) can be expected to remain in place at least as long.