Chemical Weapons Convention

Mondial Spring 2021: WFMC President Walter Dorn appears before Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs

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In December 2020, WFMC President Walter Dorn appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade to offer his insights on Bill S-2, Act to amend the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act. 

This amendment to the original legislation removes material that has been superseded and refers to the updated schedules that are held by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention. 

The following excerpts are from Dr Dorn’s testimony. 

[…] The mechanisms to control weapons of mass destruction concern us all. And we in Canada have a history of both governmental and non-governmental contributions to those mechanisms of control. 

The Chemical Weapons Convention is the most progressive implementation treaty of any arms control regime. It has very strong implementation machinery. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention needs strengthening, including some of the same mechanisms. It needs a verification protocol, at least as a confidence-building measure. 

Furthermore, Canada should support the prohibition of all classes of weapons of mass destruction under strict and effective international control. Canada is party to treaties that ban two of the three classes of WMD: chemical and biological weapons. It should sign up to the treaty that bans the third class, nuclear weapons. The treaty will enter into force next month, unfortunately without Canadian support. 

Finally, there are lessons to offer our COVID-affected world. We should consider giving the World Health Organization the powers that the OPCW has in the CWC. These are anywhere, any-time inspections without right of refusal, to using a process of managed access. 

It’s so important that we create international mechanisms 

to enforce international law. It’s sadly lacking in the world today. Enforcing the rule of law is stronger than it ever was in history, thanks to treaties like the Chemical Weapons Convention, but we have to explore more. 

One of the ways is by putting pressure on countries like Syria. You already heard that Syria could lose its vote in the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. There should be other mechanisms, automatic responses to violations that have been confirmed. There should eventually be an international court that could hear such cases. If the International Criminal Court in The Hague could hear cases of chemical weapons use dealing with the four categories of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, then we could have individual accountability and individuals brought before that court. I think we have to strengthen that mechanism. Canada does wonderful work to support the ICC, including chairing the committee that’s choosing the next Chief Prosecutor. We can do more to support the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. We could provide a designated lab, which we have not yet done, that the OPCW can send samples to. 

In international law more generally, the final enforcement provision in the CWC and in most treaties goes to the UN Security Council, where there is a veto by the five permanent members. Finding ways to get around the misuse of the veto is one of the key issues in all of international law. 

On the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the main reason, in my mind, that Canada did not sign on and actually opposed the treaty is that, as a member of NATO, it supports the same line as the other NATO members, i.e. that nuclear weapons are the “supreme guarantee” of peace. I find that nuclear weapons are actually the ultimate weapon for the destruction of humanity. The only way to secure them is for their total elimination, just like in the Chemical Weapons Convention. I hope we eventually can have a nuclear weapons convention. In the meantime, we just have a prohibition treaty, which will be entering into force in January as it gains the necessary number of adherents. Hopefully Canada can find wiggle room in order to allow NATO countries to be more positive towards the TPNW and we can find ways where eventually we could sign on to that treaty. 

Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act 

The complete transcript of Dr Dorn’s testimony 

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