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

08.12.2017

MOSCOW, DECEMBER 8, 2017. PIR PRESS – “In the current highly politicized climate, the initiative for the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism 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”, –  Alicia Rorabaugh, PIR Center’s intern and student of the Dual Degree Master Program in Nonproliferation Studies 

In March 2016 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed to develop within the framework of the Conference on Disarmament Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Chemical Terrorism. In the ensuing discussion, at the suggestion of the Italian and Chinese delegations, paragraphs relating to acts of biological terrorism have been added to the draft Convention. The Russian proposal was met with interest by some of the countries. At the same time, the others, including the USA, reacted to the proposal critically.

Alicia Rorabaugh, PIR Center’s intern and student of the Dual Degree Master Program in Nonproliferation Studies addressed the claims set forth within the proposal, offered an analysis of each as well as analyzed the arguments of different parties in her paper “Analysis of the Russian Initiative: International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism”. 

Alicia Rorabaugh explains the key findings of the article and provides three recommendations to promote the initiative.

“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.”   

For questions, regarding the PIR Center program "Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation", please contact the Program Director, Adlan Margoev, by phone +7 (495) 987 19 15 or e-mail margoev at pircenter.org.

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