Chemical Weapons


The 29th of April  is the Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare. The day marks the date in 1997 when the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) entered into force.

The use of chemical weapons is strictly prohibited according to International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The prohibition was introduced after the First World War through the 1925 Geneva Protocol which banned the use of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 'the Protocol has been respected in nearly all of the hundreds of armed conflicts that have taken place since 1925'. The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention extended the Geneva Protocol by also prohibiting any development, production, or stockpiling of these weapons.

The Convention also requires the destruction of both chemical weapons production facilities and the actual weapons themselves. Currently 190 states have ratified the Convention and two more states, Israel and Myanmar, are signatories. Four states, Angola, North Korea, Egypt and South Sudan, have not acceded to the treaty.

The illegality of using chemical weapons is however not only limited to treaty law but is also to be found in customary law, which exist independently from treaty law and is based on rules that through general state practice are accepted as law. In the ICRC customary law study launched in 2010, the use of chemical weapons is prohibited in both international and non-international armed conflicts in accordance with Rule 74. The implication of customary law is that when a rule is considered law by a majority states' practice, the rule becomes applicable law for all states, even those that do not comply with the rule through their own practice.

Shockingly, chemical weapons are still being used in conflicts around the world, most recently in the Syrian war. Syria did however ratify the Convention in late 2013. The efforts to disarm Syria will continue to require economic and human resources backed by strong political will.

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