Three Steps to Promote Russia’s Chemical and Biological Terrorism Initiative

08.12.2017

"Due to the impending fear of a chemical or biological weapons attack from a non-state actor, the Russian Federation proposed an initiative for the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism. In particular, the concern is with the increased risk of industrial chemicals and chemical and biological warfare agents being utilized by terrorists. This extensive proposal aims to be a "comprehensive, long-term, and global" solution against the risk of proliferation. Such concern pertaining to terrorist’s ability to acquire and utilize chemical or biological agents as a mechanism to carry out terrorist acts is qualified in the current international political climate."

The Russian proposal claims to address multiple gaps within the existing international legal framework and offer the solution through the implementation of this proposal. In my paper "Analysis of the Russian Initiative: International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism", I address the claims set forth within the proposal and offer an analysis of each. The proposed gaps range from the lack of international customary law prohibiting chemical weapons by non-state actors to what to do with chemical weapons recovered from terrorists. 

I also address concerns regarding the proposal being submitted to the Conference on Disarmament instead of another venue. It has been speculated by many state parties that the Russian proposal is not wholly disarmament related. However, the Russian proposal emphasized some key disarmament components which should allow for it to be classified under the Conference on Disarmament. 

Within the treaty itself, although it is still currently a draft, it can be summarized to address six important issues: the inclusion of riot control agents, criminalization of those intending or threatening to use a chemical or biological weapons, the requirement for states to implement national legislation to criminalize these actions as wells as to make the “offences punishable,” encouraging the exchange of information pertaining to these criminal proceedings, declaration of national jurisdiction as well as jurisdiction during specific times and on different vessels, the insistence on the “extradite or prosecute” clause, and on the criteria pertaining to the destruction of chemical weapons. Each of these issues is delved into and the nuances of each discussed. 

Furthermore, I analyze the position of Canada, France, Germany, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Switzerland, Syria, and the United States to show that the main States of concern that Russia must convince are: Canada, France, Switzerland and the United States. The support from these Western States can set the stage for the adoption of a plan of work and the beginnings of a functional and productive Conference. Other states such as Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Nigeria question the relevance of the venue, the proposed gaps the initiative seeks to fill, as well as the authenticity behind the proposal.

Looking forward there are three recommendations that I offer. If Russia is set on seeing this initiative through at the Conference on Disarmament, it is integral that an issuance of an additional Explanatory Note to clearly identify where each of the legal gaps are and how the current international legal framework fails to fill these holes. Second, in the current highly politicized climate, the proposal may have a higher chance of succeeding if it transitions away from the usage of “terrorist” for “non-state actor.” Not only will it streamline the international legal framework by limiting the terminology to state and non-state actor, it will circumvent the necessity to provide a definition for terrorism. Since terrorism is a method, highlighting the specific actions which need to be prosecuted and which the international community is more likely to come into agreement about can assist in the confluence of opinions. Finally, it is important for Russia to take the initiative in bolstering the existing international legal framework. This may reassure States that are weary of Russian intentions to support their current effort to act comprehensively within the existing international legal framework as well as within the Conference on Disarmament.  

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