The Chemical Weapons Convention Today

Earlier today, the Norweigan Nobel Committee awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), citing its "extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons" since the The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC) came into force in 1997, and the OPCW's role in helping to "define the use of chemical weapons as taboo under international law." 

Then, half- surprisingly, and half-not, the Nobel Committee added:

Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons. Some states are still not members of the OPCW. Certain states have not observed the deadline, which was April 2012, for destroying their chemical weapons. This applies especially to the USA and Russia.

It is under Article IV, para. 6, of the Chemical Weapons Convention that we read:

Each State Party shall destroy all chemical weapons specified in paragraph 1 pursuant to the Verification Annex and in accordance with the agreed rate and sequence of destruction….Such destruction shall begin not later than two years after this Convention enters into force for it and shall finish not later than 10 years after entry into force of this Convention. A State Party is not precluded from destroying such chemical weapons at a faster rate.

According to the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW, the United States succeeded to the CWC on January 13, 1993; it desposited its signature to the CWC with the Office of the UN Secretary-General on April 25, 1997; and the CWC entered into force for the United States on April 29, 1997.  (See Status of Participation in the Chemical Weapons Convention as of 21 May 2009 (S/768/2009). The relevant data for the United States appears at Row 180, p. 7.)

Today is October 11, 2013 — well more than 16 years since the CWC entered into force for the United States.

And yet, as The Guardian reported on one month ago today, the United States has "failed to destroy" its chemical weapons stockpiles, which include some "2,611 tons of mustard gas" in Pueblo, Colorado, and some 524 tons of mustard gas in Kentucky.  (Paul Lewis, "U.S. struggles show hazards of chemical weapons destruction," September 11, 2013.)

And that's just the old chemical junk that's been lying around for a long time, collecting dust and no doubt degrading as well. — Who knows what newer, more lethal, but still undeclared, and equally prohibited chemical weapons the Americans have been working on over many years, hidden from public knowledge?

Additionally, we know that on September 14, 2013, the UN Secretary-General received the Syrian Arab Republic's formal accession to the CWC, effective October 14, 2013, and that large contingents of chemical weapons inspectors from the UN and OPCW have begun the task of destroying Syria's extant chemical weapons stockpile and any means of manufacturing more.  (See "Secretary-General receives Syria's formal accession to treaty banning chemical weapons," UN News Center, September 14, 2013; and "Security Council approves joint OPCW-UN mission to oversee destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons," UN News Center, October 11, 2013.)
Last, the OPCW's Technical Secretariat reports that there are two states that have signed, but have yet to ratify or accede to the CWC: Israel and Myanmar.  And there are four other states that haven't even signed the CWC: Angola, North Korea, Egypt, and Somalia.  (See S/768/2009, p. 8; p. 9.)

(For some very sharp and critical comments on the Norweigan Nobel Committee's choice of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to receive the Nobel Peace Prize this year, see "Nobel Prize for OPCW: Examining Both Organizations," Institute for Public Accuracy, October 11, 2013.)

David Peterson
Chicago, USA

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