OPCW Inspectors Return to Libya

4 November 2011

The OPCW has deployed an inspection team to Libya to evaluate the status of chemical weapons stored at the Ruwagha depot in the southeast of the country. The purpose of the inspection was to determine whether any diversion of sulfur mustard agent and precursor chemicals that have been stored at the site occurred during the recent crisis. The mission was carried out with the logistical and expert support of the Federal Republic of Germany as well as the UN Department of Safety and Security. 

This is the first visit to Libya by OPCW inspectors since February 2011, when ongoing operations to destroy these chemical weapons were halted due to a technical malfunction of the destruction facility. The inspectors returned at the invitation of the new Libyan government and with its full cooperation. 

On conducting a physical inspection of the storage depot, the OPCW inspectors confirmed that the full stockpile of undestroyed sulfur mustard and precursors remains in place. The inspectors also took further measures to ensure the integrity of the stockpiles until destruction operations can resume under OPCW verification. 

When Libya joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2004, it was obligated to declare all of its chemical warfare materials, and once the OPCW confirmed the declaration, to destroy the materials in their entirety, in accordance with established deadlines. 

The former Libyan Government declared possession of 25 metric tonnes of bulk mustard agent and 1,400 metric tonnes of precursor chemicals, which are used to make chemical weapons. It also declared more than 3,500 unfilled aerial bombs designed for use with chemical warfare agents such as sulfur mustard, and three chemical weapons production facilities.

Until February of this year, when the destruction facility malfunctioned, Libya had destroyed 13.5 metric tonnes, or 55%, of its declared stockpile of sulfur mustard, and 555.7 metric tonnes, or 40%, of its precursor chemicals. It completely destroyed its arsenal of over 3,500 unfilled aerial bombs shortly after joining the Convention in 2004. One of the declared chemical weapons production facilities was razed to the ground, and two have been converted into pharmaceutical plants, as approved by the Executive Council of the OPCW. These two facilities are under regular verification by the OPCW.

On 1 November 2011, the Libyan authorities advised the OPCW that further stocks of what are believed to be chemical weapons had been found. In accordance with the Convention, Libya will provide the OPCW with a new declaration in the very near future. The OPCW will continue to work with the Libyan authorities to verify and destroy any newly declared stocks.

Contacts will continue between the OPCW Technical Secretariat and relevant Libyan authorities on the resumption of destruction activities subject to verification by OPCW inspectors.

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