OPCW adopts measures to ensure compliance with chemical weapons ban in Syria and elsewhere

Conference decides on collective measures to restrict chemical transfers to Syria, support international investigative mechanisms, and bolster efforts to address future chemical threats

30 November 2023

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 30 November 2023 — The Twenty-Eighth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) today adopted a decision titled “Addressing the Threat from Chemical Weapons Use and the Threat of Future Use”, brought forward by 48 countries.

The Conference decided that the continued possession and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Republic, and its failures to submit an accurate and complete declaration and to destroy all its undeclared chemical weapons and production facilities, have caused serious damage to the object and purpose of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

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, and under any circumstances is unacceptable and contravenes international norms and standards”. States Parties reaffirmed their determination to continue to take action to address threats related to chemical weapons in Syria and elsewhere.

Today’s decision seeks to implement for the first time Paragraph 3 of Article XII of the Convention, which refers to measures States Parties can take in order to ensure compliance.

It recommends that States Parties adopt collective measures, in accordance with national laws, to prevent the direct or indirect transfer to Syria of certain chemical precursors, dual-use chemical manufacturing facilities and equipment and related technology. Comprehensive lists are referenced in the decision text.

The decision also requests States Parties to provide support and assistance in connection with criminal investigations or criminal proceedings to national and international accountability efforts, including the UN-established International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM).

It requests that the Secretariat further bolster its mandated capabilities to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use and ensure the retention of knowledge and expertise accumulated through previous missions.

The decision encourages States Parties to share information on national measures, such as completed domestic investigations and legal proceedings related to chemical weapons through the OPCW Open-Ended Working Group on Terrorism to benefit from lessons learned and to develop best practices in addressing use and threat of use of chemical weapons.

The Conference recognises the critical need for States Parties to reinforce their national capacities in addressing the threat of chemical weapons. The Secretariat is requested to examine the types of cooperation it could provide to Member States, and further enhance capacity building programmes focused on developing national measures to preventing the transfer of chemicals, precursors, delivery means, or related materials which may pose a chemical weapons risk.

While remaining seized of the matter, the Conference requested the Director-General issue a copy of the decision to the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council, urging those bodies to take appropriate action to address the situation and advance accountability.


Today’s decision builds, among others, on the 2018 decision, “Addressing the Threat from Chemical Weapons Use” (C-SS-4/DEC.3). The decision called upon the Secretariat to put in place arrangements “to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic”, which led to the formation of the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT).

The 2018 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”.

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

On 7 July 2023, the OPCW verified that all chemical weapons stockpiles declared by the 193 States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention since 1997 — totalling 72,304 metric tonnes of chemical agents — have been irreversibly destroyed under the OPCW’s strict verification regime.

For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

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