Biological Weapon – Ricin Toxin

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (WTBC) was opened for signatory approval in 1972 and came into force on March 26, 1975 (Deller et al 2003; Chevrier 2004). At the basic, the convention fully prohibits, the development, the production, and or storage or acquisition of biological weapons (Chevrier 2004).

This was the first treaty that totally banned a class of weapon in its entirety. By establishing the norm that these weapons are prohibited internationally, as of 2001, more than 160 states had bound themselves with the obligation out of which 144 were State Parties and 18 Signatory States.

Three nations; the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union were the co-Depositories of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) (Chevrier 2004). Being co-Depositories the United States and the United Kingdom have been at the forefront in pushing for provisions that would ensure that these weapons are totally banned.

Twenty five years following the institution of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC); 1975, parties to the convention convened in Geneva to commence negotiations for an additional legal statute; a Protocol. For the twenty five years that the WBC had been in force since 1975, it had barely succeeded in achieving its objectives of biological disarmament.

At the beginning of the negotiations the United States asserted that despite the provisions in BWC of 1975, four states were actively pursuing biological weapons programmes. This was a reduction compared to the number of states in the same pursuit at the end of the Cold War when the United States had intimated that up to 10 states were actively pursuing biological weapons programmes (Littlewood 2005; Chevrier 2004).

Even though such assertions are often hard to adequately prove beyond the barrage of allegations, in the early 1990s it was general knowledge that certain states party to the Biological Weapons Convention had failed to comply in accordance with the obligations of not to develop, not to produce and not to stockpile any form of biological or toxin weapons. On this last basis of non compliance, it became necessary that additional legal measures be negotiated with the intention of strengthening the BWC.

The main deficiency with the BWC was the paucity of legal provisions that demanded compliance with the obligations that states were party to. Compliance was essentially laid on trust that states had for one another for the complete, faithful and effective implementation of the BWC.

The need to rectify the basis of compliance was necessary to succeed in strengthening the Convention as it was negotiated in 1975. This revolution has been continuous, albeit intermittently since the 1980s and continues to the present day.

Thus, the revolution has been characteristic of peaks and troughs as it is fully dependent on the changing positions of nations in the history of the revolution or in some instances attempted revolutions (Littlewood 2005). Basically, these negotiations have been either leaning on the concept of minimalism or alternatively, the concept of reform.

While the United States and the United Kingdom have striven to ensure compliance to the Convention, measures to demonstrate compliance by party states and the address of non compliance continue to erode confidence on the Convention.

Concerns of non compliance can be traced to 1991, when the former Soviet Union despite being co-Depository to the treaty continued a massive and an offensive biological weapons programme that lasted reportedly to 1992.

As at 1996, further concerns of non-compliance were raised when the United States intimated the development or acquisition of the weapons by some states party to the treaty. In itself the Convention has no provisions that can be employed in the verification of such intimations except when such concerns are presented to the Security Council.