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Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare

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As of 2010, the total world stockpile of chemical weapons amounted to approximately 30,308 tons. The good news is that this number is 78% less than the amount of declared stockpiles of chemical weapons that existed before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was authorized by the Chemical Weapons Convention to detroy them in1997.

 

Chemical weapons– which can kill humans directly as well as destroy vegetation and livestock to cause starvation– have been around for millenia. Thousands of years ago soldiers used poisoned spears and arrows, references about which were made in works by Homer and in ancient Indian epics, and the Chinese used smoke from poisonous plants in battle as early as 1000 BC.

 

The momentum to ban and effectively end the use of chemical weapons has been growing and evolving over hundreds of years as these weapons have grown in number and sophistication.  The first international agreement to ban the use of chemical weapons came in 1675 when France and the Holy Roman Empire signed the Strasbourg Agreement to ban the use of poisoned bullets.   The use of poison and poisonous weapons were then banned by the Hague Declaration of 1899 and the Hague Convention of 1907, but this did not stop the production and use of over 100,000 tons of chlorine gas during World War I.

 

It was the horrifying use of chemical weapons on such a massive scale during the First World War that prompted the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in war.  The Chemical Weapons Convention extended the Geneva Protocol to include "extensive verification measures such as on-site inspections" for chemical weapons,  which together with nuclear and biological weapons are commonly referred to to as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).


Since civil war broke in Syria in 2011, OPCW has given specific attention to allegations by rebel groups and the Syrian government that chemical weapons have been used.   The Syrian government is thought by analysts to have "one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world" including sarin, mustard and VX gases.  Although Syria did not sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, Secretary-General Ban asked for an investigation into the use of chemical weapons by the government.  On April 25, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that Syria has likely used chemical weapons against its own people, after  US intelligence analysts concluded that Syrian President Bashir Assad's forces likely used the lethal nerve agent Sarin on a small scale, partly based on “physiological samples.”

 

See our gallery below to learn more about the Chemical Weapons Convention and the organizations that are working to monitor and end the use of chemical weapons.

 

Source: Voices from Russia