Compiled by: Monalisa Joshi
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an international treaty of unlimited duration. It bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction within a specified period of time. The treaty is considered the most comprehensive pertaining to chemical weapons and is a landmark in multilateral arms negotiations in the post Cold War era.
On January 13, 1993, the Convention was opened for signature and it entered into force on April 29, 1997. At present, 183 states are party to the Convention. Amongst the seven states that have not signed or acceded include North Korea and Syria. CWC has been ratified by all the states of South Asia except for Myanmar. Myanmar signed the Convention on January 14, 1993 but has not ratified it as yet.
The Convention defines the term “chemical weapon” in Article II, paragraph 1, which states that the term “chemical weapons” means “together or separately”:
It is notable that the various items that can be considered as chemical weapons are defined in terms of the intent with which they were manufactured.
The Convention’s Annex on Chemicals contains three “Schedules” of chemicals, which have been selected on the basis of their degree of toxicity, history of use in chemical warfare and commercial utility.
The fundamental obligations of States Parties to the Convention are set out in its very first article. Each State Party undertakes “never under any circumstances”:
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the body responsible for the implementation of the CWC. It is located in The Hague. The OPCW receives states-parties’ declarations and conducts inspections in state parties.
The verification regime, set out in great detail in the Convention, focuses on obtaining relevant facts in order to build confidence among States Parties, and to discover any violations. The CWC requires declarations from States Parties relating to any chemical weapons or related facilities that they have or have had since 1946, as well as with respect to facilities relating to the chemicals listed in the three Schedules to the Convention and to unscheduled discrete organic chemicals. The CWC specifies the threshold amounts above which declarations are required for particular types of chemicals. These declarations are verified through routine inspections of the declared facilities. The Convention also provides procedures for ascertaining relevant facts in cases of suspected non-compliance (including the use of challenge inspections), and for investigations of cases involving the alleged use of chemical weapons.
The First Review Conference of the CWC took place from April 28 to May 9, 2001 at The Hague.
The Second Review Conference of the States Parties to review the operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention was also held at The Hague, from April 7 to 18, 2008.