CBW Events is a project to create a record of events to enable and encourage understanding of how policies on the issues relating to chemical and biological warfare (CBW) and its prevention are developed.

CBW Events -- March 2018 selections

Each month, entries for a small number of selected anniversaries of notable CBW-related events are posted. All will appear in the relevant final versions of the chronologies.

5 years ago | 10 years ago | 15 years ago | 20 years ago | 25 years ago | 30 years ago | 35 years ago | 50 years ago | 60 years ago

5 years ago:

19 March 2013     In Syria, the government and opposition forces each claim that the other initiated an attack with chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal [in some reports spelled al-Asal], in the administrative area of Aleppo. A separate allegation that government forces used chemical weapons in Ataybah near Damascus is also made but there is some ambiguity of the suggested date of this alleged attack.
     The BBC cites the Sana news agency as reporting "Terrorists launched a missile containing chemical products into the region of Khan al-Assal in the province of Aleppo, killing 15 people, mainly civilians".[1] Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi is quoted as saying rebels fired "a rocket containing poison gases" from the city's southeastern district of Nairab, part of which is held by opposition forces. "The substance in the rocket causes unconsciousness, then convulsions, then death", the minister is reported to have said.[2] Russia's foreign ministry is reported as saying it had information that rebel units had used chemical weapons captured from the government.[3]
     Qassim Saadeddine, described as senior rebel commander and spokesman for the Higher Military Council in Aleppo, attributes the alleged use of chemical weapons to government forces, and is quoted as saying, from Aleppo, "We were hearing reports from early this morning about a regime attack on Khan al-Assal, and we believe they fired a Scud with chemical agents".[4]
     An unidentified Reuters photographer is cited as saying that victims he had visited in Aleppo hospitals were suffering breathing problems and that people had said they could smell chlorine after the attack.[5]
     Ambassador of Syria to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari, writes to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council,[6] stating:

At 0730 hours this morning, in a dangerous escalation of the crimes that the armed terrorist groups are committing in the north of Syria, those groups fired a rocket from the Kafr Da"il area towards Khan al-Asal in Aleppo governorate, some 5 km away. The missile fell in a civilian-populated area, some 300 metres from a Syrian Arab army position. Its impact was followed by a thick cloud of smoke, which left unconscious anyone who inhaled it. The explosion of the missile and the gases that were emitted have so far caused the death of 25 persons and the injury of more than 110 civilians and soldiers, who have all been taken to hospital in Aleppo.

     The letter repeats allegations made by the Ambassador three months previously that rebel forces had obtained chemical weapons from sources in Turkey [see 10 December 2012]. The letter goes on to say:

The Syrian Arab Republic, while reiterating the commitment that it has made on scores of occasions, through the diplomatic channel and in public, and which it has conveyed to the Secretary-General and the Security Council, to the effect that it would never use any chemical weapons which it may have against its own people, will proceed with its constitutional obligation to pursue the terrorists and their supporters, out of concern for the security and safety of its people. Syria calls upon the international community to take serious and determined action to prevent those terrorist groups from continuing to commit their dangerous crimes against the Syrian people, by halting the financial, military, logistical, political and media support which is provided by the States that support the terrorist groups, in particular, Turkey, Qatar and certain Western States, without any thought for the consequences of that support for innocent Syrian civilians, whose blood is being spilled by those terrorist groups.

     The Secretary-General's spokesperson Martin Nesirky, while stating that the UN is not in a position to confirm reports of possible chemical weapons use in Syria, tells reporters "What I can say is that the Secretary-General has repeatedly said that any use of chemical weapons by any side in Syria would be a grave violation of international humanitarian law and would also be an outrageous escalation of an already bloody conflict".
     The following day, the UN Secretary-General receives a communication from the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic which he describes as "requesting a specialized, impartial and independent mission to investigate the incident of 19 March 2013 involving an alleged use of chemical weapons in Kafr Da'il region in Khan al-Asal area in Aleppo governorate, Syrian Arab Republic".[8] This communication is not published at this time, but is distinct from the letter quoted above which does not contain a specific request.
     The allegations of attacks with chemical weapons on this date prompt considerable international reaction in the coming days and weeks. They are specifically referred to in the letter to the Secretary-General from the governments of France and the United Kingdom on 21 March; the report of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic published on 4 June; and a letter from US Ambassador Susan Rice to the UN Secretary-General on 14 June.
     [1] [no author listed], "Syrians trade Khan al-Assal chemical weapons claims", BBC, 19 March 2013.
     [2] Oliver Holmes and Erika Solomon (from Beirut), "Alleged chemical attack kills 25 in northern Syria", Reuters, 19 March 2013.
     [3] Damien McElroy, "Syria: regime accuses rebels of killing 25 in chemical weapons attack", Daily Telegraph, 19 March 2013.
     [4] Oliver Holmes and Erika Solomon (from Beirut), "Alleged chemical attack kills 25 in northern Syria", Reuters, 19 March 2013.
     [5] Oliver Holmes and Erika Solomon (from Beirut), "Alleged chemical attack kills 25 in northern Syria", Reuters, 19 March 2013.
     [6] Syria, Identical letters dated 19 March 2013 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council, S/2013/172, 19 March 2013.
     [7] United Nations Department of Public Information, "Ban reiterates concerns about possible chemical weapons use in Syria", press release, 19 March 2013.
     [8] United Nations Secretary-General, Letter dated 22 March 2013 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2013/184, 25 March 2013.

21 March 2013     In New York, the United Nations Secretary-General announces an investigation into allegations of use of chemical weapons in response to a request from the Government of Syria. In making this announcement, the Secretary-General makes reference only to the request from the Government of Syria, received on 20 March [see 19 March] but no other formal requests from governments.
     The Secretary-General tells the press:[1]

If requested by a Member State, I have a mandate to consider conducting an investigation on alleged uses of chemical, biological and toxin weapons pursuant to General Assembly resolution 42/37 C of 1987 and reaffirm [sic] by Security Council resolution 620 of 1988.

     With this in mind, I would like to announce that I have decided to conduct a United Nations investigation on the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.

     My senior advisers are working on the modalities in close consultation with the relevant bodies, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

     These include detailed issues such as: overall mandate, mission composition, and operational conditions including safety and security.

     I have also been in close contact with OPCW Director-General Mr. Ahmet Uzumcu and WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. They have both assured me of their full support and cooperation.

     It is my hope that the mission would contribute to ensuring the safety and security of chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.

     The investigation mission is to look into the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian Government. I am, of course, aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons.

     In discharging its mandate of an investigation mission, full cooperation from all parties will be essential.

     I stress that this includes unfettered access.

     He goes on to say "There is much work to do and this will not happen overnight. It is obviously a difficult mission. I intend for this investigation to start as soon as practically possible."
     The Secretary-General formally informs the Security Council of his decision the following day.[2] This letter contains the first reference by the Secretary-General of the letter from France and the United Kingdom.
     [1] Ban Ki-moon, "Secretary-General's Press Encounter on Syrian Government Request", 21 March 2013.
     [2] United Nations Secretary-General, Letter dated 22 March 2013 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2013/184, 25 March 2013.

21 March 2013     Britain and France despatch a joint letter to the UN Secretary-General alleging the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces. This appears to have been received by the Secretary-General after his announcement of an investigation [see 21 March] in response to a request from Syria. The letter is not made public at this time but some journalists suggest they have seen the text.
     The Associated Press, which says it has "obtained" the letter, states the allegations made are "of chemical weapons use in two locations in Khan al-Assal and the village of Ataybah in the vicinity of Damascus on Tuesday [19 March], and in Homs on Dec. 23", and that the letter requests "an urgent investigation into all allegations as expeditiously as possible".[1]
     The UK's deputy UN ambassador Philip Parham is quoted as saying "The facts need to be clarified" and went on to say "If chemical weapons have been used, this would be abhorrent, it would be very grave, it would warrant a serious response by the international community".[2]
     The Secretary-General notes: "On 21 March 2013, I received a letter from the Governments of France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland requesting an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the locations of Khan al-Asal in Aleppo and Ataybah in the vicinity of Damascus, as well as in Homs on 23 December 2012". The Secretary-General notes further: "I have requested the Governments concerned to provide additional information pertaining to the incidents that they have reported to me. The provision of this information will be crucial in defining the terms of reference for the mission and the scope of its work with a view to verifying any alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic."[3]
     Further details of what is in the letter are not made public at this time. Some weeks later, the Washington Post reports unidentified "senior diplomats and officials" saying that unpublished correspondence from France and the United Kingdom to the UN Secretary-General indicated that there was credible evidence of use of chemical weapons by government forces in Syria on more than one occasion since December and that "soil samples, witness interviews and opposition sources support charges that nerve agents were used in and around the cities of Aleppo, Homs, and possibly Damascus".[4] On the same day as the Post reporting, the New York Times suggests that France and the United Kingdom had written separately to the Secretary-General in correspondence which contains what the paper refers to as "credible information" about chemical weapons attacks in Syria, according to unnamed diplomats. The paper says this correspondence had begun on 25 March.[5] At least one letter, a copy of which was "obtained" by the paper, is said to report, in the words of the paper, "that dozens of victims were treated at hospitals for shortness of breath, convulsions and dilation of the pupils, common symptoms of exposure to chemical warfare agents. Doctors reported eye irritation and fatigue after close exposure to the patients".[6]
     While there is consistency in reporting the date of the alleged attack in Aleppo, there is confusion on the date(s) of the alleged attack in Damascus. For example, at least one British newspaper suggests that the UK correspondence gives the date of the Aleppo attack as 19 March and the Damascus one on 23 March;[7] notwithstanding that the allegation relating to the Damascus attack was made two days before that date.
     [1] [no author listed], Associated Press, as in: "AP source: Chemical weapons unlikely in attack", Yahoo News, 21 March 2013.
     [2] Damien McElroy, "Syria: Britain calls for UN inquiry into "multiple" chemical attacks", Daily Telegraph (London), 21 March 2013.
     [3] United Nations Secretary-General, Letter dated 22 March 2013 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2013/184, 25 March 2013; see also United Nations Department of Public Information, "UN chief and Security Council strongly condemn terrorist attack on Damascus mosque", press release, 22 March 2013.
     [4] Colum Lynch (from UN New York) and Karen DeYoung (from Washington), "Britain, France claim Syria used chemical weapons", Washington Post, 18 April 2013.
     [5] Rick Gladstone (from New York) and Eric Schmitt (from Washington), "Syria faces new claim on chemical arms", New York Times, 18 April 2013.
     [6] Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt (from Washington), "White House Says It Believes Syria Has Used Chemical Arms", New York Times, 24 April 2013.
     [7] Peter Beaumont, "Syria nerve gas claims undermined by eyewitness accounts", Observer (London), 28 April 2013, p 23.


10 years ago:

3 March 2008     The US Central Intelligence Agency releases its Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions for the period 1 January to 31 December 2006.[1] The country-specific part of the report states: "Syria continued to seek dual-use technology from foreign sources during the reporting period. Syria has had a chemical weapons program for many years and already has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin, which can be delivered by aircraft or ballistic missile. In addition, Syria is developing the more toxic and persistent nerve agent VX. We assess that Syria remains dependent on foreign sources for key elements of its CW program, including precursor chemicals ... Syria's biotechnical infrastructure is capable of supporting limited biological agent development. We do not assess the Syrians have achieved a capability to put biological agents into effective weapons, however".
     [1] Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January to 31 December 2006, released 3 March 2008.


15 years ago:

6 March 2003     At UN headquarters, UNMOVIC completes a working draft of the document Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq's Proscribed Weapons Programmes,[1] described by UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix as a "working document with the complete clusters of disarmament issues".[2] It rapidly becomes commonly known as the "cluster document". Although Security Council resolution 1284 [see 17 December 1999] only requires UNMOVIC to submit its work programme to the Security Council, Blix decides to declassify this document and make it available to Council members on request. It is posted on UNMOVIC's website five days later.
     The 175-page report takes as its starting point the final report produced by UNSCOM [see 25 January 1999] and the "Amorim panel" report on disarmament aspects of UN-Iraq relations [see 27 March 1999]. However, the report also utilizes material from UNMOVIC's archive such as Iraqi full, final and complete declarations. This has been supplemented by information acquired in the years since, including material from the backlog of semi-annual declarations transmitted by Iraq in October 2002, from the declaration presented by Iraq [see 7 December 2002] as required by resolution 1441 [see 8 November 2002], from suppliers, from documents provided by Iraq since the resumption of inspections, from inspection reports by UNMOVIC, from open sources and from overhead imagery and intelligence reports.
     After a description of the factors which have shaped Iraq's policies on weapons of mass destruction and a summary of developments from December 1998 until the present, the report categorizes the unresolved disarmament tasks into 29 clusters and presents them by discipline: missiles; munitions; chemical; and biological. As well as providing UNMOVIC's assessment of each cluster, the report also contains suggestions as to how Iraq could resolve the issues. Finally, appended to the report is a historical account of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes.
     The report is used by both sides in the current deliberations within the Security Council to justify their respective positions.[3]
     [1] UNMOVIC, "Unresolved disarmament issues: Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes", 6 March 2003.
     [2] Hans Blix, UNMOVIC Executive Chairman, presentation to the UN Security Council, 7 March 2003, as reported in UN document S/PV.4714, dated 7 March 2003, p 5.
     [3] Mark Turner and Guy Dinmore (from New York), "Complex Blix report gives hope to both sides in UN", Financial Times, 8-9 March 2003, p 10.


20 years ago:

24 March 1998     In Iraq, the scientist Nassir al-Hindawi, described as "the father of Baghdad's germ weapons program", has been arrested while preparing to leave the country, according to unidentified Western officials quoted in the New York Times. Dr Hindawi had written a secret report in 1983 suggesting how the country's small and ailing BW programme might be turned into a major military asset, so UNSCOM officials have said, and, according to Iraqi officials sometime previously, he had been managing director during 1989-91 of the now-destroyed facility at al-Hakam [see 20 June 1996]. The Times also reports that it had been told by Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon, Iraq's UN representative, that his government had, on 9 March, informed UNSCOM of the arrest, turning over to it papers on the BW programme that had been found in Dr Hindawi's possession.[1] UNSCOM spokesman Ewen Buchanan later confirms that this was so, but adds that Dr Hindawi "was not involved in the production phase" of the programme.[2] General al-Saadi [see 20-27 March] tells the Vienna Standard that Iraqi authorities had been suspicious of Dr Hindawi for some time because, when questioned by UNSCOM, as he often had been, he could "remember" details that nobody else knew any more.[3] To the Zurich Tages-Anzeiger, he says that Dr Hindawi "wanted to retire as a rich man, outside Iraq" and was now "in prison for an illegal deal", also saying: "He resigned from the weapons programme in 1989, but remained head of the civilian programme, which deals with the production of pesticides, fertilizers and proteins. The CIA is after the Iraqi scientists so that it can keep the biological weapons file open."[4] Unidentified people, some of them said to represent the Iraqi opposition in exile, are quoted as attributing the arrest of Dr Hindawi to a CIA exfiltration operation that had gone wrong.[5]
     [1] Judith Miller, "Baghdad arrests a germ specialist", New York Times, 24 March 1998, pp A1 & A11.
     [2] [no author listed] (from UN New York), "UNSCOM plays down Iraq germ warfare arrest", Agence France Press, 24 March 1998; Jason Bennetto, Colin Brown and David Usborne, "Ministers in "Doomsday" exercise after anthrax alert", Independent (London), 25 March 1998, p 1; R Jeffrey Smith (from New York), "Iraq jails germ warfare scientist it says wanted to leave with documents", Washington Post, 25 March 1998, p A27; [no author listed] (from Tehran), "UN Welcomes Iraqi's Offer to Interview Germ Expert", Xinhua News Agency, 25 March 1998, ref 0325022.
     [3] Gudrun Harrer, Der Standard (Vienna), 1 April 1998, p 6, "[The CIA is after our experts]", as translated from the German in FBIS-NES-98-091, 1 April 1998.
     [4] Tages-Anzeiger (Zurich), 28 March 1998, as reported in: "Swiss paper interviews Iraqi weapons official; says UN free to question Hindawi", BBC-SWB, 1 April 1998, part 4, ME/D3190/MED.
     [5] Julian Borger, "CIA accused of bungling Iraq escape", Guardian (London), 26 March 1998, p 13; [no author listed], "Proliferation: secret Baghdad-Washington-Tehran fight", Intelligence Newsletter, 2 April 1998, pp 6-7.


25 years ago:

22 March 1993     In the US Senate, Senator John McCain introduces reports on Iraq's nuclear and chemical weapons programmes which he had commissioned from the Congressional Research Service some months previously [see 24 February] - the report on biological weapons is not yet ready. He comments on the contributions which American, European and Indian corporations had made to the Iraqi CW programme, and says that international arms control efforts alone cannot be relied upon to stop the spread of mass-destruction technologies. He continues: "We need to use the full power of the American economy to confront supplier countries and companies with powerful sanctions in terms of a loss of access to American market".[1]
     [1] Congressional Record (daily edition), 22 March 1993, pp S3380-1.


30 years ago:

16 March 1988     Kurdish areas of Iraq are attacked with chemical weapons "on a massive scale", Iranian sources claim.[1] In particular, the towns of Halabja and Dojaila are attacked with chemical weapons "killing many defenceless residents", so IRNA reports.[2] The towns are currently on the front line of the Iran–Iraq War. Initial information suggests "some 4000 residents ... killed",[3] although it is not clear if this is meant to be the figure for Halabja only or for Halabja, Dojaila and the neighbouring community of Khormal together. Later Iran says the chemical weapons casualties in and around Halabja during 16–18 March total 12 500,[4] including more than 5500 dead.[5] Later research shows the number to be, at minuimum, in excess of 3200.[6]
     It later becomes clear that these attacks are carried out in parallel with a wider campaign known as "Anfal".[7] Tehran Radio claims that Iraq had resorted to using chemical weapons as it was "totally disappointed because of repeated defeats".[8]
     Accounts of both survivors and Iranian officials indicate that Iraqi warplanes bomb the town with a combination of conventional and chemical weapons during 16 and 17 March, with the Iraqi soldiers of the Halabja garrison having surrendered to Kurdish irregular forces the day before. Iranian soldiers enter Halabja not long before Iraqi aircraft begin bombing with chemical weapons. The Iranian soldiers have access to protective equipment, meaning many survive the chemical weapons attack. Iranian doctors, treating hundreds of survivors, said the cloud contained a mixture of mustard gas and cyanide gas, with unknown nerve agents mixed in as well. The injured suffered from chemical burns from the mustard gas on their skin, eyes and lungs.[9]
     Further reports suggest chemical weapons are also deployed from systems other than aircraft. Iranian Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ali Shafii is quoted as saying "Iraqis, using planes and artillery equipped with chemical weapons releasing mustard gas, cyanide and other types, caused 5000 innocent people of Halabja and the area to die".[10]
     Some eight months later, a senior member of the Iraqi Government, Vice President Taha Muhyi al-Din Ma'ruf, admits Iraqi use of chemical weapons at Halabja.[11]
     [1] Letter dated 17 March 1988 from the Acting Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/19639, 17 March 1988.
     [2] Martin Marris (from Nicosia), "Iraqi Missile Strikes Tehran, Iran Says it Seized Two Border Towns", Associated Press, 17 March 1988.
     [3] IRNA, 1800 GMT 17 March 1988, as reported in "Iranian Military Communiqués and Reports", BBC-SWB, 23 March 1988, ME/0107/A/1; Letter dated 18 March 1988 from the Acting Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/19647, 18 March 1988
     [4] Letter Dated 11 April 1988 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran Addressed to the President of the Conference on Disarmament, Conference on Disarmament Document CD/827, 12 April 1988.
     [5] Speech by the representative of Iran to the Conference on Disarmament, Mr Mashhadi, as reported in CD document CD/PV.450, 22 March 1988.
     [6] A total of 3200 names of individuals killed was collected in the course of systematic interviews with survivors by researcher Shorsh Resool, as reported in: Human Rights Watch, Iraq's Crime of Genocide: The Anfal Campaign against the Kurds (Yale University Press, 1995).
     [7] Dlawer Abdul Aziz Ala'Aldeen, Death Clouds: Saddam Hussein's Chemical War Against the Kurds, January 1991; Human Rights Watch, Iraq's Crime of Genocide: The Anfal Campaign against the Kurds (Yale University Press, 1995).
     [8] Tehran radio, 17 March 1988, as reported in "Gulf war Iran "Liberates" more towns; Khomeyni comments on missile attacks", BBC-SWB, 18 March 1988, ME/0103/i.
     [9] "Iraqi Poison Gas Attack Kills Kurds in Iraqi Town; Town Bombed After Capture by Iran", Facts on File, 1 April 1988, p. 215, F2.
     [10] Andrew Bilski, "Under a cloud of death", Maclean's, 4 April 1988, p.18.
     [11] Statement of Taha Muhyi al-Din Ma'ruf, Vice President of Iraq, at a press luncheon in Paris, as reported in Le Monde, 10 November 1988, p 12.


35 years ago:

8 March 1983     In Geneva, the United Kingdom submits to the Committee on Disarmament a paper on "Verification of Non-Production of Chemical Weapons".[1]
     The introduction of the paper notes: "It has become increasingly clear that the key to agreement on a chemical weapons convention is the elaboration of a sound verification regime which will generate confidence that States Parties are complying with provisions of the convention" and that discussions "have shown that it would not be practicable to devise verification procedures which would provide an absolute assurance that the convention is not being violated. On the other hand, a chemical weapons convention must provide for sufficient verification to deter the would-be violator and to provide a degree of assurance against violation by one party is accepted as adequate by others."
     The paper continues: "Attention will be concentrated on a limited list of substances which pose particular problems for the verification of a chemical weapons convention. They comprise a list of named compounds or types of compound which are key precursors of super-toxic chemical agents." The paper includes an annex with an "illustrative list" of types of compound which might be included in "a special category for the purpose of verification of non-production under a chemical weapons convention. This list is not definitive and is open to discussion." The paper notes that the list: "comprises chemicals which are vital for the production of particularly potent, lethal and incapacitating chemical weapons."
     The paper concludes:

The above verification regime for non-production of chemical weapons, together with routine inspection of activities such as the destruction of stockpiles and production facilities, should help to create confidence in the implementation of the convention without imposing undue strain on industry, and thus serve to decrease the need for special inspections. The number of routine inspections would be kept to the minimum and the inspection procedures both simple and confidential; they would not involve intrusion into research activities or into the details of production while still deterring violations of the convention. The British Government will continue its consultations with the British chemical industry on this subject. We hope that other States will also carry out such consultations in the near future. Such action would build confidence by showing the determination to make the necessary effort to reach agreement on a convention.

     The paper is later summarized in the following terms:[2]

This paper aims to demonstrate that regular inspections to verify the non-production of chemical weapons need not be onerous to the chemical industry. The proposed verification regime includes:

       (1) declarations of facilities producing chemicals necessary for the manufacture of chemical weapons (a non-definitive list of these chemicals is appended to the paper in an annex),

       (2) periodic random selection of a number of the declared facilities for on-site inspection, and

       (3) on-site inspections under the authority of the Consultative Committee.

     Countries failing to make a declaration of facilities and their locations would be subject to special inspections. The random nature of regular inspections would have a deterrent value because facilities recently inspected could again be subject to inspection under a system of drawing lots. A period of one week from the time of selection is suggested as the schedule for inspection to prevent facilities from being quickly modified. Bureaucratic delays such as refusal to grant entry visas to inspectors would be taken as prima facie evidence of a breach of the convention. Independent technical inspectors assisted by a permanent technical secretariat would be responsible to the Consultative Committee. Specific inspection procedures would be established by the convention.

     The paper addresses the problem of dual purpose chemicals by suggesting that there should be a requirement for a declaration of all facilities producing dual purpose chemicals in amounts above a certain level and an indication of their civil use.

     The paper notes that since the inspections proposed would affect only a few facilities producing super-toxic chemicals, the verification regime would not be a burden on the chemical industry. Consultations between the British Government and the British civil chemical industry concerning the proposed inspections suggested that satisfactory arrangements could be arrived at.

     [1] United Kingdom, "Verification of Non-Production of Chemical Weapons", CD/353, 8 March 1983.
     [2] Canada, Department of External Affairs, Verification Research Unit, Compendium of Arms Control Verification Proposals, volume 1, pp. 390-91.


50 years ago:

13 March 1968     In the United States, an F-4 Phantom strike aircraft flies a test mission over the Dugway Proving Ground with chemical dispensers containing VX. One of the dispensers isn't completely emptied during the test, and an outlet valve remains jammed open. A VX cloud forms in a trail behind the aircraft, drifting into Skull Valley, north of the proving ground, and settling over a huge flock of sheep. Thousands of sheep die as a consequence in the following days. The cloud is said to travel over halfway to Salt Lake City, some 80 miles (130 km) away and is only dispersed by a rain shower. The DoD denies responsibility for over a year.[1]
     [1] Roy Reed (from Washington), "Gas or germ tests in air are scored", New York Times, 21 May 1969; Stephen Barber (from Washington), "Official U.S. Map "Proof" of Gas and Germ War Tests", Daily Telegraph (London), 22 May 1969; Seymour Hersh, "On Uncovering the Great Nerve Gas Coverup", Ramparts, June 1969, pp 13–18; Sterling Seagrave, Yellow Rain: a journey through the terror of chemical warfare, New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1981, p 109; Final Environmental Impact Statement for Activities Associated with Future Programs at U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Volume II, August 31, 2004, pp I-16-17.


60 years ago:

31 March 1958     At Nancekuke chemical weapons production plant in the United Kingdom, fitter Tom Griffiths and a colleague are accidentally exposed to the nerve agent sarin.[1]
     A decade later, Griffiths asks the UK Ministry of Defence to lift the secrecy ban on the agents he worked with, allowing him to claim compensation for ill health. It takes a further decade for compensation to be granted, in May 1979, after review by three medical boards.[2]
     The case is a focal point of an adjournment debate in the House of Commons 42 years later.[3]
     [1] The episode is recounted in Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman, A Higher Form of Killing: the secret history of chemical and biological warfare, (2nd edition), London: Random House/Arrow, 2002, pp 153, 157-8 & 164.
     [2] [no author listed, "Feedback" column], "Nerve gas man wins 10-year fight", New Scientist, 19 July 1979, p 225.
     [3] "Nancekuke Base", Hansard (Commons), 18 January 2000, c818-26, Adjournment debate opened by Candy Atherton MP and answered by John Spellar, Minister for the Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence.


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