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Geneva Protocol banning chemical and bacteriological weapons turns 80 – What now?

10-06-2005 News Release 05/32

Geneva (ICRC) – Over the past 80 years, the 1925 Geneva Protocol has been instrumental in the successful effort to avert the use of chemical and biological weapons.

  ©Imperial War Museum London/hist-00687-07    
  WWI. Bois-Grenier Sector    
  © All rights reserved/hist-01118    
  WWI. Spreading gas on the battlefield    

That was the message today from Jacques Forster, vice-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), speaking at a seminar to mark the Protocol’s 80th anniversary.

In the midst of widespread abhorrence at the gas warfare of the First World War and following a forceful public appeal by the ICRC, the Protocol was adopted by the international community in 1925. In 2002, faced with advances in biosciences making chemical and biological agents increasingly easier to produce, conceal and use, the ICRC made another, similar appeal.

In Mr Forster’s view, the risk of failing in the struggle against poisoning and the deliberate spread of disease can be reduced if governments, scientists and industry cooperate. There is little time to lose, he stressed, but any framework for addressing the full range of threats must include the existing legal framework of the 1925 Protocol and the two treaties it gave birth to: the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.

In 1925, the “poison gas protocol” was agreed to after the event – exactly 10 years after the first-ever gas attack in the First World War. Today, the massive increase in the number of potentially dangerous agents, their proliferation and the multiplication of States, groups and individuals having access to them create a much more alarming picture. This time, argues Forster, it is essential to act before the event.

 For more information, please contact:  

 Ian Piper, ICRC Geneva, +41 22 730 2063 or +41 79 217 3216  

 For interviews, please contact:  

 Robin Coupland, ICRC Geneva, +41 22 730 2080