Recently, the head of the international chemical weapons watchdog told the U.N. Security Council that its experts have investigated 77 allegations against Syria, and concluded that in 17 cases chemical weapons were likely or definitely used.
It is “a disturbing reality” that eight years after Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, many questions remain about its initial declaration of its weapons, stockpiles and precursors and its ongoing programme.
- Syria was pressed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention in September 2013 by its close ally Russia after a deadly chemical weapons attack that the West blamed on Damascus.
- By August 2014, Syrian government declared that the destruction of its chemical weapons was completed. But Syria’s initial declaration to the OPCW has remained in dispute.
- In April 2020, OPCW investigators blamed three chemical attacks in 2017 on the Syrian government. The OPCW Executive Council responded by demanding that Syria provide details.
- When it didn’t, France submitted a draft measure on behalf of 46 countries in November to suspend Syria’s “rights and privileges” in the global watchdog. In an unprecedented vote on April 21, the OPCW suspended Syria’s rights until all outstanding issues are resolved.
- Without accountability for the atrocities committed against the Syrian people, lasting peace in Syria will remain out of reach.
Back to Basics
About Chemical Weapons Convention
- It is a multilateral treaty that bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction within a specified period of time.
- It is of unlimited duration and is far more comprehensive than the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which outlaws the use but not the possession of chemical weapons.
- The CWC negotiations started in 1980 in the UN Conference on Disarmament.
- The convention opened for signature on January 13, 1993, and entered into force on April 29, 1997.
- It is implemented by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
- It is open to all nations and currently has 193 states-parties.
- Israel has signed but has yet to ratify the convention.
- Three states have neither signed nor ratified the convention (Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan).
What are the prohibitions under Chemical Weapons Convention ?
- The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits:
- Developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons;
- The direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons;
- Chemical weapons use or military preparation for use;
- Assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity; and
- The use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare”
Declaration Requirements under Chemical Weapons Convention
- It requires states-parties to declare in writing to the OPCW their chemical weapons stockpiles, chemical weapons production facilities (CWPFs), relevant chemical industry facilities, and other weapons-related information.
- It must be done within 30 days of the convention’s entry into force for each member state.
Penalties for Non-compliance under Chemical Weapons Convention
- The OPCW could recommend collective punitive measures to other states-parties.
- The OPCW could bring the issue before the UN Security Council and General Assembly.
- The states-parties must take measures to address questions raised about their compliance with the CWC.
India and Chemical Weapons Convention
- India is a signatory and party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
- India signed the treaty at Paris on 14th day of January 1993.
- India was the First State Party to secure the distinction of chemical weapon free state Party by destructing all its stockpile of its chemical weapons amongst all State Parties of the Convention.
About Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
- It is headquartered in The Hague with about 500 employees.
- It receives states-parties’ declarations detailing chemical weapons-related activities or materials and relevant industrial activities.
- It inspects and monitors states-parties’ facilities and activities, after receiving declarations, that are relevant to the convention, to ensure compliance.
Its mission is to implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention to achieve the vision of a world free of chemical weapons.
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