Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement on Monday ahead of the UN’s fifth scheduled review conference of the 1993 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (“Chemical Weapons Convention”). HRW urged member states to uphold the convention’s ban on chemical weapons and “single out” any violators.
Arms advocacy director at HRW Mary Wareham said, “Governments should use the Review Conference to reinforce the longstanding ban against chemical weapons by condemning any use and demanding accountability for violations … These governments should uphold the integrity of the treaty by publicly singling out violators.” Specifically, HRW calls for Syria, as a signatory of the convention since 2013, to fully comply with the requirements under the Chemical Weapons Convention. HRW argues Syria has not been in compliance with the convention since they began using “nerve agent sarin and chlorine” weapons.
The Chemical Weapons Convention aims to “eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties. States Parties, in turn, must take the steps necessary to enforce that prohibition in respect of persons (natural or legal) within their jurisdiction.” The Chemical Weapons Convention has an important feature which allows “State Party in doubt about another State Party’s compliance can request a surprise inspection” of their compliance under the Convention. There are currently 193 signatories to the convention.
The conference will gather UN members states to evaluate the Chemical Weapons Convention’s implementation and the priorities for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)–the international body responsible for overseeing implementation–in the following years. The OPCW started live-streaming the conference Monday morning and has stated that “the OPCW is on a firm path ahead, spurred by a 26-year legacy of successful implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
The conference is scheduled to last from Tuesday, May 16 through Friday, May 19.