(The Hague, May 15, 2023) – Governments must protect the integrity of the international treaty banning chemical weapons by fully implementing its provisions and ensuring accountability for any violations, Human Rights Watch said today . A review conference of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention is scheduled to take place in The Hague on May 15-19, 2023.
“Governments should use the review convention to strengthen the longstanding prohibition against chemical weapons by condemning any use and demanding accountability for violations,” it said. Mary Wareham, director of arms advocacy at Human Rights Watch. “These governments must uphold the integrity of the treaty by publicly isolating violators.”
A total of 193 countries are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, making it the world’s most universally accepted humanitarian disarmament treaty. Only Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan remain outside the convention, while Israel has signed but not ratified the treaty.
The landmark convention prohibits the use of common chemicals with toxic properties such as chlorine to kill or injure. Among other obligations, each Member State agrees never to “assist, encourage or induce in any way to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.”
Human Rights Watch conducted extensive operations research In the late 1980s by the government of Saddam Hussein in the use of chemical weapons in the Kurdish regions of Iraq, before the convention took effect internationally in April 1997. Recent research has shown that the Syrian government was responsible for dozens chemical weapons attack in 2010. Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and others have also Investigated The use of chemical weapons by the armed group Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq during the past decade.
Upon ratifying the convention in October 2013, Syria committed to adhere to a strict prohibition on any development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer, or use of chemical weapons. Yet the Syrian government has only partially complied with the requirement to declare and destroy any remaining stockpiles of chemical weapons and the facilities that produce them.
Furthermore, the Syrian government continued to use chemical weapons after joining the convention. Repeated investigations by the Organization of the United Nations and the Convention for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concluded that Syrian government forces between 2015 and 2018 used the nerve agent sarin, as well as chlorine, delivered by improvised aerial bombs, in those attacks. in which thousands of people were reportedly killed or injured.
In 2018, states participated in the Chemical Weapons Convention condemned “the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances in the strongest possible terms.”
Human Rights Watch has documented the often abusive and sometimes fatal use of tear gas and other chemical irritants by law enforcement and other security forces, particularly during protests. Law enforcement officials may employ such riot control agents in accordance with international human rights law, which allows its use only when necessary to prevent further physical harm. Whenever possible, a warning should be given before the use of tear gas and it should never be used to disperse a non-violent protest.
However, under the Chemical Weapons Convention, such riot control agents cannot be used as a method of warfare, both during international and non-international armed conflicts. Human Rights Watch said that governments need to be vigilant in preventing and suppressing any use of tear gas on the battlefield.
Human Rights Watch’s request to attend meetings of the Chemical Weapons Convention had been denied in the past due to objections from some member states, but in April Human Rights Watch’s accreditation to attend the Fifth Review Conference was accepted. was taken. According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, almost all Review Conference recognition requests from non-governmental organizations were accepted. A handful were rejected, including the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Syria Civil Defense and the Middle East Treaty Organisation.
“Some governments should not be able to mute expert civil society Voices are raised by being denied access to key meetings of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Wareham said. “The conference needs to urgently change its practices on whether to accept or decline the attendance of NGOs and to make decisions clear and public.”