Chemical Weapons

The Geneva Protocol 1925

The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (the Geneva Protocol 1925) was adopted in reaction to the horrific consequences of the extensive use of gas during the First World War (1914-18). The Protocol, which entered into force in 1928, bans the use of ‘asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices', and of ‘bacteriological methods of warfare' by a state party to the Protocol against any country which is also a party to the Protocol. Australia acceded to the Geneva Protocol in 1930.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

Chemical weapons as defined by the Chemical Weapons Convention cover "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation, or permanent harm to humans or animals," as well as munitions, devices or equipment designed for use in connection with such chemicals as weapons.

Australia views proliferation of chemical weapons as a potentially serious threat both to global security, and, particularly if chemical weapons became prevalent in our region, to our own security. Australia's commitment to the eradication of this class of weapons of mass destruction is further strengthened by the memory of the many Australian casualties of chemical weapons use on the battlefields of Europe in the First World War.

Australia strongly supports the operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which is the only verifiable international treaty to ban comprehensively an entire category of weapons. The CWC, which entered into force in 1997, bans the development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. The CWC also provides for declaration and destruction of existing chemical weapons, past chemical weapons programs and old and abandoned chemical weapons; declaration and routine inspection of facilities producing chemicals which could be used for chemical weapons purposes; international cooperation in the face of threats of chemical weapons use, and in the use of chemicals for peaceful purposes; and "challenge inspections" which states may request if they have concerns that other states party to the Convention are not abiding by their obligations. Australia was an original signatory to the Convention, (13 January 1993) and was among the first nations to ratify it, in May 1994.  The third CWC review conference will be held on April 2013 in The Hague.

Australia continues to promote the CWC, including through implementation of its provisions, coordinated through the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office (ASNO) and close cooperation on implementation of the Convention with regional countries and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.

Details of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and of the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is responsible for ensuring the effective implementation of its provisions.