CWC Conference of the States Parties Adopts Decision Addressing the Threat from Chemical Weapons Use

27 June 2018
Fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties

Fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 27 June 2018 —Today, the Fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) adopted a decision on addressing the threat from chemical weapons use. The decision brought forward by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and supported by 30 countries (Albania, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States of America), was adopted with 106 States Parties present and voting; 82 States Parties voted yes and 24 States Parties voted no.

In adopting the decision, States Parties condemned “in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances, emphasising that any use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances is unacceptable and contravenes international norms and standards”. The decision also condemned the use of chemical weapons since 2012 in Iraq, Malaysia, the Syrian Arab Republic, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as the use of chemical weapons by State and by non-State actors as a direct threat to the object and purpose of the convention.

The decision expressed support and appreciation for the professional, impartial, and independent work of the Director-General and the Technical Secretariat. It also calls upon the Secretariat to put in place arrangements “to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic by identifying and reporting on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons in those instances in which the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission determines or has determined that use or likely use occurred, and cases for which the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has not issued a report”.

The decision further affirmed that whenever chemical weapons use occurs on the territory of a State Party, “those who were the perpetrators, organisers, sponsors or otherwise involved should be identified” and it underscored “the added value of the Secretariat conducting an independent investigation of an alleged use of chemical weapons with a view to facilitating universal attribution of all chemical weapons attacks”.

States Parties also reiterated the role of the OPCW Executive Council regarding cases of non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The decision requests the Secretariat to preserve and provide information to the investigative mechanism established by the United Nations General Assembly in resolution 71/248 (2016), as well as to any relevant investigatory entities established by the United Nations.

At the opening of the Conference, OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü stated: “I have not hesitated in pointing out that currently there is no mechanism that would ensure that those who use chemical weapons are held fully accountable. Investigations of alleged use of chemical weapons are essential if we are to preserve the core norms of the Convention, its credibility, and its integrity. Chemical weapons use, wherever it occurs, is a serious offence requiring resolute action. If accountability is avoided, the potential re-emergence and acceptance of chemicals as weapons of war and terror will not be deterred.”

At the next regular session of the Conference, scheduled for November 2018, the Director-General is invited to submit: proposals to enhance the capacity and tools of the Secretariat to strengthen implementation of the Convention’s verification regime; options for further assistance the Secretariat may provide to States Parties to enable them to implement their obligations under the Convention, to enhance chemical security, and to enable international cooperation in the field of chemical activities for purposes not prohibited under the Convention; and other proposals to strengthen the capability of the Secretariat.

Background

As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997 – with its 193 States Parties – it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction. 

Over 96% of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

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