Libyan war shows up OPCW weaknesses


The Libyan civil war has shown up shortcomings in the counter-chemical weapons control regime. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute notes concern was expressed during the conflict that the regime of Muammar Gaddafi would employ a stock of residual
sulphur mustard against anti-government protestors and armed rebel groups.

After the war, in November last year, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) sent a special inspection team to Libya to investigate reports of undeclared chemical weapons and it was confirmed that the Gaddafi regime had not declared a secret chemical weapon stockpile.
“The fact that the OPCW did not uncover Libya’s deceptive declarations prior to the 2011 overthrow of Gaddafi raised questions about the organisation’s ability to detect violations
more generally and prompted calls to review the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention’s verification regime, although little discussion occurred on how to link this problem to the convention’s challenge inspection request provisions.”

Meanwhile, SIPRI cautions science and technology and related research can strongly affect chemical and biological warfare prevention, response and remediation efforts. Research on avian influenza in particular has raised a number of policy implications, such as whether it is
preferable to describe scientific research on its merits for peaceful purposes and to avoid characterising it in terms of potential security threats. The debate also affects research funding, publication policies, agreed principles in research oversight, and differences in approach on agreeing and implementing appropriate safety and security standards.
“Despite the inherently subjective (qualitative) nature of such assessments, scientists and technical experts working for states, in principle, understand such threats—provided their national structures are oriented to take such threats into account. Non-state actors—‘terrorists’ and the proverbial garage science operators—lack institutional depth and capacity to achieve similar levels of sophistication or output.
“Another key conundrum is whether threat pronouncements—often made by those who are not conducting scientific research and development—prompt al-Qaeda affiliates (or their equivalent) to consider or to pursue the acquisition of chemical and biological weapons.