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This Day in History – April 29 – Chemical Weapons Convention

What happened?

The Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force on 29 April 1997.

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Background

  • The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is a multilateral treaty banning chemical weapons and requiring their destruction within the stipulated time.
  • Negotiations for the CWC began in 1980 at the UN Conference on Disarmament.
  • The convention was drafted on 3 September 1992 and opened for signature on 13 January 1993. It became effective from 29 April 1997.
  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) implements this convention. It has its headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • The CWC has 192 state parties and 165 signatories.
  • Israel has signed the convention but is yet to ratify it. Egypt, South Sudan and North Korea are not parties to the treaty.
  • The latest country to enter the treaty is Angola in 2015.
  • India signed the treaty in January 1993. Thereafter, the Chemical Weapons Convention Act, 2000 was passed in parliament to implement the CWC. This act is applicable to all citizens.
  • The OPCW is the authority to which countries parties to the treaty declare their chemical weapons stockpile and then destroy them.
  • About 96% of the world’s chemical weapons have been destroyed after the CWC implementation.
  • This convention prohibits:
    • The development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, or retention of chemical weapons
    • Transferring of chemical weapons
    • Using chemical weapons
    • Assisting other States to indulge in activities that are prohibited by the CWC
    • Using riot-control devices as ‘warfare methods’
  • There are three categories of chemical weapons stockpiles as per the convention:
    • Weapons containing schedule 1 chemicals like VX, Sarin
    • Weapons containing non-schedule 1 chemicals like phosgene
    • Weapons designed especially to employ chemical weapons
  • The convention also makes it mandatory to destroy old and abandoned chemical weapons.
  • Members should also declare the riot-control agents in possession with them.
  • In India, the 2000 Act provided for the establishment of a National Authority for Chemical Weapons Convention or NACWC. This institution, formed in 2005, is the chief liaison between the government of India and the OPCW. It is an office in the Cabinet Secretariat of the GOI.
  • The CWC is implemented by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is headquartered in The Hague. OPCW won the 2013 Nobel peace prize.

Chemical Weapons Convention Act:

The Act defines chemical weapons and empowers the Centre to set up a National Authority to act as the “national focal point” for effective channel for communication between groups, organisations and other state parties on matters relating to the Convention and for fulfilling the obligations of the country.

The definition includes in its ambit “any equipment” specifically designed for employing chemical weapons.

The Act defines chemical weapons as toxic chemicals, including munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm.

A world free of chemical weapons means two things:

(a) That the existing stockpile of chemical weapons is irreversibly destroyed and

(b) Re-emergence of chemical weapons is scrupulously prevented.

Free availability of raw materials and enhanced access to technical know how through the internet are factors which help subversive elements to craft chemical weapons with comparative ease.

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Thank you!

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