Archived page: may contain outdated information!
  • Send page
  • Print page

Chemical warfare: A relic of history?

07-05-1997 News Release 97/17

The first Conference of States party to the Chemical Weapons Convention opened in The Hague on Tuesday 6 May. The primary task of the Conference is to set up the new Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an agency with some 500  staff, including inspectors to monitor government compliance with the Convention's provisions.

Following the widespread use of chemical weapons in the First World War the ICRC protested " with all the force at our command " against this means of waging war and called for its prohibition. If chemical warfare were not outlawed, the International Committee foresaw " a struggle which will exceed in barbarity anything which history has known so far " . The ICRC's appeal, together with widespread public revulsion at the use of poison gas, led to the adoption of the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning the use of chemical and bacteriological weapons.

Though the use of chemical weapons was outlawed in 1925, there have since been confirmed reports of their use in a small number of cases. The ICRC hopes that the Convention's entry into force and the establishment of the OPCW will ensure that chemical warfare becomes a relic of history. It therefore urges all States that have not yet done so to adhere to the Chemical Weapons Convention at the earliest possible opportunity. It also calls upon the States party to the Biological Weapons Convention to develop an effective mechanism to monitor compliance with that treaty's provisions in order to ensure that biological warfare is similarly averted.