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 -- recent/notable additions/updates include: (these links will each open in a new window)

  • March 2021 select anniversaries added (see also below).
  • COVID-19 Impact Reports, June/July 2020.
  • Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of States Parties daily reports, December 2019.
  • Twenty-fourth CWC Conference of States Parties daily reports, November 2019.
  • Syria chronology updates, including a new whole-year file for 2013 and a selection of entries related to the confirmed completeness or otherwise of the destruction of Syrian stocks of chemical weapons
  • Links to CWC Resource Guide 2013 for the Third CWC Review Conference added -- electronic copies of the book are now available from the site
  • Links to BWC Briefing Book 2011 for the Seventh BWC Review Conference added -- electronic copies of the book are now available from the site


CBW Events -- March 2021 selections

Each month (when time allows), 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.

25 years ago | 40 years ago | 50 years ago | 65 years ago | 75 years ago

25 years ago:

8 March 1996     Iraq transmits to the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) a new version of the "full, final and complete disclosure" of its past biological weapons programme. The declaration is in draft form for UNSCOM comment, just as the latest chemical FFCD had been [see 29 February]. UNSCOM later reports: "In a number of important aspects, information contained in the recent draft does not match the current findings by the Commission. Unless rectified by Iraq in a convincing manner, such a situation will cause great problems in the verification of Iraq’s formal declaration." UNSCOM also observes gaps, saying that it "is now particularly interested to receive from Iraq a final coherent statement on the integration of its biological weapons programme into Iraq’s military posture and a substantiated material balance of biological warfare agents and munitions from production to destruction".[1]
     [1] Report of the Secretary-General on the Activities of the Special Commission Established by the Secretary-General Pursuant to paragraph 9(b)(1) of Resolution 687 (1991), UN document S/1996/258, dated 11 April 1996, para 76.


40 years ago:

31 March 1981     In San Francisco, final arguments are heard in a legal action alleging that a bacteriological warfare experiment off the coast of California [see 20 September 1950] had led to the death of Edward J. Nevin, aged 75. Family members argue that Nevin died some weeks after the experiment [see 1 November 1950] from a bacterial infection of the heart. Government testimony includes denials that the dispersal of the bacteria used, Serratia marcescens, could have caused the death.[1]
     [1] [No author listed], "Judge’s decision expected soon in California germ warfare case", New York Times, 15 April 1981.


50 years ago:

9 March 1971     In Geneva, Swedish Representative Alva Myrdal makes a statement to the plenary meeting of the the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament on the negotiations on controls on chemical and biological weapons.  The statement includes some discussion on the question of whether prohibitions on use should be included in the draft Biological Weapons Convention proposed by the United Kingdom: "Prior to discussing the substance of the prohibitions to be included in the treaty, we should circumscribe the problem by stating explicitly what they should not try to encompass.  The Swedish delegation recommends that we should now decide definitely to abandon any references to the use of chemical and biological weapons in the treaty we are now about to draft.  This would require a surgical change in the United Kingdom draft convention. Without my making a longwinded plea on this score, I hope all delegations will agree that: first, prohibition of use is already covered by the Geneva Protocol; and second, even if that legislation were to be amended in any way, it would belong to the laws of war and not in a text concerned with arms limitation and disarmament. ... Logically, the solution should be quite simple: the treaty should open with a principal overriding regulation of the type indicated in the socialist draft convention [see 23 October 1970]. The scope of such an undertaking would be ‘not to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire chemical and biological weapons’.  A further improvement would be the inclusion of the prohibition of transfers. In order to facilitate our process of mutual comprehension -- yes, even in order to press forward with our work in this Committee we would like to invite other delegations to reply to certain basic questions more or less immediately. ... Do you agree that we decide to exclude from the ambit of this new treaty the question of use of chemical and biological weapons, and to confine it to prohibiting production, testing, stockpiling and transfers of such means of warfare and prescribing the elimination of existing stocks?"[1]
     [1] As reproduced in CCD/PV.499.

30 March 1971     In Geneva, during the plenary meeting of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament, the USSR introduces a working paper including the text of a draft convention on biological weapons.[1] The draft marks a change from the earlier Soviet-bloc policy of support for a convention to cover biological and chemical weapons together.
     Soviet Representative Alexei Roshchin, addressing the plenary, says: "Permit me now to describe briefly the content of the draft convention proposed by the socialist countries. The basic aim of the agreement is to preclude completely the possibility of the use in war of bacteriological weapons and toxins.  The achievement of that aim is ensured by the provisions of articles I and II of the draft convention under which each State party to the convention undertakes not to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire microbiological or other biological agents or toxins of such types and in such quantities as are not designed for peaceful purposes. The States parties also undertake to destroy within a period of three months after the entry into force of the convention all types of such weapons in their possession. At the same time provision is made for a corresponding ban on auxiliary equipment and means of delivery of bacteriological agents and toxins. ...  We should also like to stress the importance of article VIII of the draft convention.  That article stipulates that nothing in the convention should be interpreted as in any way limiting or detracting from the obligations assumed by any State under the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which contains generally recognized rules of international law. By concluding the proposed convention the parties to it would thereby confirm their adherence to the purposes and principles of the Geneva Protocol of 1925 and stress the importance of that document and its prohibition of the use of chemical and bacteriological means of warfare.  Moreover, as the content of article VIII shows, the authors of the draft convention base themselves on the understanding that the Protocol contains generally-recognized rules of international law concerning the inadmissibility of the use of chemical and bacteriological weapons -- that is to say, the understanding which, as we know, was confirmed by the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly in resolution 2603 A (XXIV)."[2]
     Press reporting suggests that the change in Soviet policy "was clearly timed to coincide" with the opening of the Congress of the Communist Party in Moscow on the same day during which disarmament was one of the subjects.[3]
     [1] Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, the Ukranian Soviet Socialist Republic and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, "Draft Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) weapons and toxins and on their destruction", CCD/325, 30 March 1971, 6 pp.
     [2] As translated from Russian and reproduced in CCD/PV.505.
     [2] [No author listed], "Soviets Advance Germ Warfare Ban", Washington Post, 31 March 1971, p A1 & A6.


65 years ago:

15 March 1956     In Washington, President Eisenhower approves a new statement of Basic National Security Policy [BNSP] to replace NSC 5501 [see 7 January 1955].  Included in the new formulation is:
"12.  To the extent that the military effectiveness of the armed forces will be enhanced by their use, the United States will be prepared to use chemical and bacteriological weapons in general war.  The decision as to their use will be made by the President.
"13. If time permits and an attack on the United States or US forces is not involved, the United States should consult appropriate allies before any decision to use nuclear, chemical or bacteriological weapons is made by the President."[1]
     During the National Security Council discussion of para 12, it was observed that the policy it embodied was a change from previous policy, which called for the use of CBW weapons in retaliation only.  The President expressly accepted the change, having commented that the chief purpose of paragraph 12 was to encourage CBW weapons research and development.[2]
     [1] National Security Council, Basic National Security Policy, NSC 5602/1, 15 March 1956
     [2] US Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957.  Volume XIX: National Security Policy, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1990, pp 206-208.


75 years ago:

5 March 1946     In the UK House of Commons, the Secretary of State for War replies to a written question: "if he is aware that cattle and sheep are dying from what is believed to be escaping poison gas from containers stored in the War Department dump on Glinn’s Farm, Kippen, Stirlingshire; and what steps he proposes to take to remove this public danger" with the response: "I understand that the cause of the recent deaths of cattle in this area has not yet been definitely established.  No further destruction of ammunition will, however, be carried out in the area until the results of investigations now in progress are known."[1]
     [1] Jack Lawson, Secretary of State for War, Written Answer, 5 March 1946, Hansard (Commons), vol 420, c35w, in response to a question from William Snadden MP.