Tag Archives: OPCW

What is a chemical weapon? When is chlorine a chemical weapon?

A recurring question in the context of the investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into the use of chlorine in the attack against Douma on 7 April is whether chlorine is actually a chemical weapon (CW).

The simple answer is ‘yes’ if the chemical element is released as method of warfare, an act of terrorism, or any other deliberate act intended to harm or kill a person or animal.

There are two elements in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to bear in mind, namely the definition of a CW and the three Schedules (or lists with chemicals), which are annexed to the convention. read more

Novichok between opinion and fact – Part 1: Deconstruction of the Russian denial

Since the assassination attempt on Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a nerve agent now just over one month ago, so much has been written about ‘Novichok’; so much has been opined about what ‘Novichok’ is meant to be (if it exists at all); and so much smoke has been spewed about what the identification of ‘Novichok’ suggests about culprits. This blog posting is the first of several to look into a specific aspect of the discussions concerning Novichok in the hope of clarifying where certain positions come from and what factual knowledge exists about this group of nerve agents. read more

Geopolitical manoeuvring behind Skripal

On 4 April the Executive Council (EC) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will meet in a special session. Russia called the extraordinary meeting. It has been a month now since former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia had been exposed to a nerve agent in Salisbury. The United Kingdom (UK) government identified it as a member of the ‘Novichok’ family, once researched and developed by the Soviet Union. Russia is believed to have continued the programme at least during the first years after the breakup of the USSR. It has never come clear on the nature of the programme or identified the agents’ characteristics. As no other country has ever been associated with the Novichok family of agents, London’s finger-pointing at Moscow was not difficult. read more

Novichok and the Chemical Weapons Convention

Assassinations with nerve agents are rare. Very rare. The reason is simple: other means to eliminate a person are simpler and much more effective. The marginal benefit from using even some of the most toxic substances ever made by man is negligible. What is more, the attempt fails often, as Aum Shinrikyo experienced when trying to take out some of the cult’s enemies with VX before the 1995 sarin attack in the Tokyo underground. Last year’s murder of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North-Korean leader Kim Jong-un, also involved VX according to Malaysian authorities. However, the real perpetrator behind the two women who rubbed the substance in his face was quickly identified. read more

Palestine’s withdrawal of its instrument of accession to the CWC (Part 2)

In my blog posting of 16 January entitled ‘Palestine: From a “will-be” party to the CWC to a “would-have-been”?’, I described how Palestine submitted its instrument of accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) with the UN Secretary-General on 29 December, only to withdraw it on 8 January. Since having achieved the status of ‘UN non-member observer state’ in 2012, Palestine has joined over 50 international agreements, including the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, to which it became formally a party on 16 January. The CWC is the only treaty on which it reversed its position. read more

Palestine: From a ‘will-be’ party to the CWC to a ‘would-have-been’?

Something really remarkable happened in the first two weeks of 2018. On 2 January, quite out of the blue came the notification by UN Secretary-General António Guterres that the State of Palestine had deposited its instrument of accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). It was to become the 193rd state party on 28 January, thirty days after having submitted the document (29 December). Indeed, ‘was’. Guterres formally informed UN members on 11 January that Palestine had withdrawn its instrument of accession three days earlier. read more

The OPCW and the industry: Are there any obligations?

Opinion by Prof Benjamin Ruiz Loyola, Faculty of Chemistry, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Member of the OPCW Advisory Board on Education and Outreach (ABEO)

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is an organization devoted to the destruction of all the chemical weapons over our world, to prevent the reemergence of this weapons of mass destruction and to prevent the abuse or misuse of dual-use chemical compounds or technologies. This activities of the OPCW are determined by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an international agreement signed and ratified by 192 countries (and one that in the next few days will be doing the same], representing more than 98% of the world’s population. Among many other activities, there are some that have a great importance for the chemical related industries. read more

Education & outreach in CW disarmament 2017

Statement by Dr Jean Pascal Zanders, Chairperson of the OPCW Advisory Board on Education and Outreach, to the 22nd Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention

The Hague, (delivered) 1 December 2017

Mr Chairperson, Director-General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

2017 has been the second year of work for the Advisory Board on Education and Outreach (ABEO) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The ABEO held two meetings at the OPCW Headquarters from 14 to 16 March and from 29 to 31 August. Members also participated actively in intersessional virtual sessions to prepare and comment on diverse preparatory documents. They furthermore contributed actively to regional meetings and the 19th Annual Meeting of National Authorities, which was held here in The Hague last week. The ABEO also benefited from substantive input by the permanent observers from the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA). read more

Building A WMD-Free Zone on Existing Treaties and Conventions Syrian CWC-Adherence and Reactions, Especially in Israel

Speaking notes for the side event to the 2017 Preparatory Committee of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), organised by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and Academic Peace Orchestra Middle East (APOME), Vienna, 8 May 2017.

It builds on and updates an earlier posting of 13 March 2015.

Operation of the CWC in the Middle East

  • As of 1 May 2017, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) comprises 192 states parties. The CWC entered into force 20 years ago, on 29 April 1997. It has the largest number of parties of any weapon control treaty.
  • Four states, including two from the Middle East, are still outside the convention: Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan. (Israel did sign but not ratify the convention.)
  • Given the armed conflicts in different parts of the Middle East, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has intervened in Syria and Libya to secure declared chemical weapons (CW) and have them destroyed in other parties to the CWC so as to prevent their use by any one of the belligerents in either country. The Libyan operation took place in August 2016. It drew on the precedent set by and experience gained from the evacuation of chemicals from Syria.

Situation in Syria read more

CWC 20th anniversary: Speeches and impressions

Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (The Hague, 26 April 2017)

Invitation to the Commemoration

The Programme

Collection of speeches

  • Welcome address by Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the OPCW
  • Video message by Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • Address by Mr Bert Koenders, Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands
  • Address by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden
  • Address by Mrs Pauline Krikke, Mayor of The Hague
  • Address by Ambassador Dr Christoph Israng, Chairperson of the Conference of the States Parties
  • read more