16. Chemical and biological warfare developments and arms control
Events in 2003 included the first of a new form of annual meeting for states parties to the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and the first review conference of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), as well as the establishment of an ad hoc cooperative mechanism aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological methods of warfare: the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). The year also included the military occupation of Iraq and the renouncing of chemical and biological weapons by Libya.
In Iraq, 2003 began with inspections by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which continued until inspectors were withdrawn in March and the country was occupied by forces of the United States and the United Kingdom and their coalition partners. The coalition then carried out its own search efforts. By the end of the year no clear evidence that prohibited weapons existed at the time of the attack had been made public. Questions were raised about the reliability of intelligence assessments and the degree to which these might have been politicized.
In December President Muammar Qadhafi made a commitment to dismantle Libya’s WMD, including its chemical weapon stockpile, following several months of secret negotiations. This commitment includes the acceptance of international inspectors in Libya. The decision to demonstrate verifiably that Libya no longer possesses these weapons suggests that, in some cases, maintaining a policy of ambiguity as to whether a country possesses certain weapon programmes is less tenable in the current security environment.
The Libyan decision also suggests that ad hoc coalitions of like-minded states acting on specific issues of concern to meet perceived threats can be effective under certain circumstances. Conversely, the case of Iraq has raised doubts as to whether ad hoc coalitions can be sufficiently certain of the accuracy of their information. The actions of such coalitions should be seen to be justified by the existence of reliable information and not unduly influenced or driven by political considerations. Otherwise there is a risk that the international credibility of their actions will be fundamentally undermined.
The first of the annual series of expert and political meetings of states parties to the BTWC was held in accordance with the decision of the reconvened Fifth BTWC Review Conference (held in 2002). These are scheduled to continue until the Sixth Review Conference in 2006. The focus of the meeting in 2003 was on national measures to implement the convention’s prohibitions and the security and oversight of pathogenic organisms and toxins. There is no consensus among states parties on the extent to which efforts to strengthen the regime can or should be carried out within other forums (e.g., the Australia Group, the PSI and the World Health Organization) and the extent to which such efforts should be pursued within the BTWC regime itself.
A special conference of the parties to the CWC, held during the review conference, took a final decision to implement a policy that limits the tenure of employees in the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to seven years. The OPCW also adopted a ‘plan of action’ to ensure that the parties have met their obligations to put in place effective national implementation measures.
The parties to the CWC need to ensure that the OPCW’s institutional memory and expertise are maintained as the new tenure policy is implemented. The parties should also continue to take into account relevant scientific and technological developments. If the OPCW does not formally consider the applicability of CWC provisions regarding non-lethal weapons or incapacitants and agree relevant policy decisions, there is a risk that this issue will be decided on the basis of implementation practice rather than deliberate policy.
Appendix 16A. The SARS epidemic: the control of infectious diseases and biological weapon threats
JAMES THUO NJUGUNA
The rapid spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in early 2003 was perceived by a number of governments as a challenge to security because of its impact on their economies, including health care systems. The speed with which SARS spread also contributed to concern about the potential threat posed by biological weapons generally and the use of infectious disease as a method of warfare in particular. The SARS epidemic is a useful case study for evaluating national and international capabilities to deal with disease outbreaks, both naturally occurring and deliberate, including related implications for the BTWC.
Richard Guthrie (United Kingdom) became the Leader of the SIPRI Chemical and Biological Warfare Project and editor of the SIPRI Chemical & Biological Warfare Studies series in September 2003. Previously, he was an independent consultant dealing with defence and security issues with a specialization in the control of WMD and was involved in a long-term collaboration with the Harvard Sussex Program, where he was responsible for production of The CBW Conventions Bulletin and for managing certain data resources. He also edited or co-edited seven volumes of the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC) yearbook in 1991–97 and the VERTIC newsletter Trust and Verify in 1992–97, and produced the PPNN Newsbrief in 1989–2001. He is a co-author of Non-Compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention: Lessons from and for Iraq, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 5 (Oct. 2003).
John Hart (United States) has been a Researcher on the SIPRI Chemical and Biological Warfare (CBW) Project since 2001. Previously, he worked as an On-Site Inspection Researcher at the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC) and as a Research Associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). In 1996–97 he worked as a Research Assistant on the SIPRI CBW Project. He is co-author of the SIPRI Fact Sheets ‘The Chemical Weapons Convention’ (1997); ‘Biotechnology and the future of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention’ (2001); and ‘Maintaining the effectiveness of the Chemical Weapons Convention’ (2002). He co-edited Chemical Weapon Destruction in Russia: Political, Legal and Technical Aspects, SIPRI Chemical & Biological Warfare Studies No. 17 (1998) and is a co-author of Non-Compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention: Lessons from and for Iraq, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 5 (Oct. 2003). He contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2003.
Frida Kuhlau (Sweden) is a Research Associate on the SIPRI Chemical and Biological Warfare Project. She is co-author (with John Hart and Jean Pascal Zanders) of the SIPRI Fact Sheets ‘Biotechnology and the future of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention’ (2001) and ‘Maintaining the effectiveness of the Chemical Weapons Convention’ (2002). She has contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook since 2002 and is a co-author of Non-Compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention: Lessons from and for Iraq, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 5 (Oct. 2003).
Jacqueline Simon (Canada) was a Researcher on the SIPRI Chemical and Biological Warfare Project in 2000 and 2001. She was a member of the Secretariat to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 2001-2003. She is currently employed with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in Ottawa. She contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook in 2001 and 2003.
James Thuo Njuguna (Kenya) is a medical biologist and was a guest researcher at SIPRI in the autumn of 2003. Previously, he worked as a researcher at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute and for the Kenyan Ministry of Health. He has written on the threat of biological terrorism in East Africa and is a co-author of a number of publications on human and animal trypanosomosis.