Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Syria’s threat to employ chemical weapons gravely violates international covenants

Syria’s threats yesterday to deploy chemical weapons against foreign invaders demonstrates the Syrian regime’s disregard for international law and the customs of civilized nations. The world first came together in 1925 to condemn the use of chemical weapons in adopting the Geneva Gas Protocol. On 29 April 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force, complementing the Geneva Gas Protocol, but much more aggressively prohibiting the use of all chemical weapons as a method of warfare.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, which applies to both international and internal armed conflicts, has been adopted by nearly all of the civilized world. As of 2012, all but the following six nations have either signed or ratified the Convention: Angola, Egypt, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.

While Syria is not a State party to the Convention, the Convention has become so widely accepted as a standard of the law of war that one can argue that it has become binding as customary international law, comprised of consistent and recurrent state practice developed over time and undertaken out of a sense of legal obligation.

While Syria can argue that through its reservations, it is not bound by the Convention, a stronger argument can be made that the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons rises to the level of jus cogens, or non-derogable peremptory legal norms. Either way, Syria, by threatening to use chemical weapons, shows that it is acting outside the accepted practices of civilized nations.

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