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Syria and chemical weapons laws

So what are the chemical weapons laws President Obama is speaking of?

The fear of chemical weapons predated their manufacture. International law first proscribed chemical warfare at the Hague Conference of 1899; this banned the use of asphyxiating shells even though no such weapon had yet been developed.[] At the Brussels Conference in 1874, the participating states adopted an International Declaration Concerning the Laws and Customs of War. Under Article 13(a) of that Declaration, the participating states forbade the “employment of poison or poisoned weapons.”[] Then, at The Hague Conference of 1899 a Declaration was adopted condemning the use of projectiles intended for the sole purpose of the “diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases.”[] Next, at both The Hague Conferences (1899 and 1907) the participating states adopted the Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land.[] Under Article 23(a) of both Conventions, the employment of “poison or poisoned weapons” was forbidden.[]

Another early example of regulating chemical weapons was in Article 171 of the Versailles Treaty, which cited these previous outlawing examples for its prohibition of chemical weapons as part of the dictated peace.[] Later in 1921, at the Naval Conference, the U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes argued for an absolute prohibition on any first use of chemical weapons, and his proposal for an absolute ban was accepted as Article V of the Washington Treaty, however, the Washington Treaty never came into effect.[] Following this failure, however, was the greatest contribution to chemical weapons law the world would see for the next seventy years. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 has been commonly argued as part of customary international law.

Customary international law binds all states whether or not they have become a party to it. Customary law states that the use of poison or poisoned weapons is prohibited.[] While each state is free to have their own legislation on the matter, it is considered generally unethical and illegal to use such weapons. State practice establishes this rule as a norm in both international and non-international armed conflicts.[] In international armed conflicts, this principle is reflected the Lieber Code and the Hague Regulations.[] Also, “employing poison or poisoned weapons” is a war crime in international armed conflicts under the Statute of the International Criminal Court.[] A case before the International Court of Justice (called the Nuclear Weapons case) recognized the prohibition of poison and poisoned weapons in its considerations. In its advisory opinion, the Court reaffirmed the customary character of the prohibition of the use of poison or poisoned weapons.[] In non-international armed conflicts, the Statute of the International Criminal Court does not apply since it does not include the use of poison or poisoned weapons as a war crime in the sections dealing with non-international armed conflicts.[]

To compensate for this, legislation has been passed in some States criminalizing the use of poison or poisoned weapons as used in non-international armed conflicts. An example of this is Germany, whose legislation states explicitly that the rule applies to both international and non-international armed conflicts.[] Colombia’s Constitutional Court has held that the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons in non-international armed conflicts is part of customary international law.[] Along with those specific examples, several military manuals prohibit chemical weapons due to their “inhuman” and/or “indiscriminate” effect. The use of chemical weapons is prohibited in international armed conflicts in a series of treaties, including the Hague Declaration concerning Asphyxiating Gases, the Geneva Gas Protocol, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Statute of the International Criminal Court.[]

There are still 21 reservations to the Geneva Gas Protocol stating that if an adverse party, and sometimes that parties ally, does not respect the Protocol, the ratifying State will no longer consider itself bound by it.[] Out of these 21 states, 16 are party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, leaving only five States (Angola, Iraq, Israel, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) [] which, under treaty law, could avail themselves of their reserved right to use chemical weapons against someone who attacks them similarly. Similarly, the US Naval Handbook implies that, for non-parties to the CWC, retaliation in kind is lawful, but that it must stop once the use that prompted the retaliation has ended.[] These types of laws are debated highly due to the principle that states are not to stockpile such weapons to begin with.

In 1985, the U.S. Congress mandated that the Department of Defense be responsible for establishing a Chemical and Biological Defense (CBD) program, U.S. Code Title 50, Sections 1521 through 153, provided the legal foundation for chemical weapons disposal activities.[] Among the things it proscribes are: §1521a which makes the Secretary of Defense responsible for setting up a program to destroy stockpiles of these weapons, §1523 a reporting requirement on the readiness for a chemical weapon attack, requirements for training, detection, and protective equipment, for medical prophylaxis, and for treatment of casualties resulting from use of chemical or biological weapons, and §1526 which prohibits the government from assisting in the research, development, design, testing, or evaluation of chemical or biological weapons for offensive purposes. []

An example of how these laws are put into practice happened this January. The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity (CMA) hosted a formal ceremony on January 21, 2012, for the successful completion of its chemical agent stockpile disposal mission.[] “We knew that our common goal—to destroy the stockpiles at Johnston Island, Maryland, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon and Utah—was challenging, but we forged ahead. Today, we are justifiably proud. We made the world safer,” said Don Barclay, Acting Director, CMA.[] With such programs, the availability of chemical weapons to retaliate attacks would be less likely.

Using chemical weapons can also amount to an international crime under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, or a grave breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even if it does not violate the Geneva Protocol. Beyond these regulations, there are still more conventions limiting the use of these weapons. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) of 1972 and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) of 1993 are directed primarily to the actions of states.[] The Convention bans not only the current use and possession of chemical weapons, but also research, development, and production of such arms in the future. Article 4 of the BWC and Article 7 of the CWC require that all parties take any necessary measures to “prohibit and prevent the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, or retention of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment and means of delivery” for each weapon respectively specified in each Convention.[] The CWC requires each state party to enact penal legislation that would be applicable to the activities of its own nationals anywhere in the world.[] The BWC and the CWC do not, however, establish criminal jurisdiction applicable to foreign nationals in its territory who commit biological or chemical weapons offenses elsewhere and neither convention contains provisions dealing with extradition.

US Court Cases

There have been a number of court cases in the United States involving chemical weapons. One case from 2011, Hessam Ghane was convicted of stockpiling, retaining, and possessing a chemical weapon.[] Ghane had a history of depression and suicidal thoughts and upon a trip to the hospital, Ghane told the doctor that he would use cyanide if he were to kill himself and that he had some at his apartment. He also stated he was not willing to give up the cyanide because “he might want to use it later.”[] Following this interview, the doctor obtained permission from the hospital’s risk management office to contact the police, due to the potential for public harm.[] The police searched Ghane’s apartment and found the cyanide. He had approximately 177 grams of 75% pure potassium which could kill 450 people in its solid form and constituted 900 lethal doses as a gas.[] He was admitted to a psychiatric ward and while there Ghane stated that he had thoughts of harming others affiliated with the Corps of Engineers.[] Again with permission, this was brought to law enforcement. The psychiatrist talked to an FBI agent regarding Ghane’s threats and demeanor. Charges ensued and after many years of litigating Ghane’s competence to stand trial, a jury returned the conviction which the court affirmed.

Another case was in 2006. Demetrius Crocker was charged with four counts of weapons-related offenses in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, he appealed and it was affirmed.[] He began to express his dislike of the American government and various minority groups. On top of that he also admiration for Timothy McVeigh and Adolf Hitler and his hatred of Jews, Blacks, Middle Easterners, and Asians.[] Crocker told his friend Adams that he had produced nitroglycerin in the past and that he wanted to obtain materials to blow up a courthouse or a government building. His friend contacted a local drug enforcement officer who put him in touch with Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officer Brian Bird and FBI agent Daryl Berry. Adams agreed to record his conversations with Crocker and work with an undercover agent named Steven Burroughs.[] Adams introduced Crocker to Burroughs saying Burroughs worked for the government and could get him the chemical weapons he wanted. Burroughs and Crocker met several times and Burroughs told Crocker that he had access to Difluoro, which could be mixed with alcohol to produce Sarin.[] During the course of their conversations, Crocker also inquired about obtaining mortar rounds, grenades, and Claymore land mines. When Burroughs informed Crocker that Pine Bluff previously had Mustard gas, Crocker told him that he had made his own.[] Crocker also told Burroughs how to make chlorine gas and various improvised explosive devices.[] After several more conversations, Crocker purchased what he thought were the chemicals to make Sarin and various other agents.[] He was arrested immediately. He was charged with knowingly attempting to acquire, receive, and possess a chemical weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 229(a).[] Along with that he was also charged with knowingly inducing a person to acquire, transfer, and possess a chemical weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 229(a)(2) and that he received and possessed explosive weapons, which had been shipped and transported in interstate commerce, knowing and having reasonable cause to believe that they were stolen, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 842(h) and 844(1).[] The final charge was that he had the knowledge and intent that these explosive materials would be used to damage and destroy a building in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(d).[] He was sentenced to 360 months of imprisonment to be followed by a life term of supervised release.[]

The criminalization of chemical weapons was taken very seriously by the United States. The cases set forth above are just of domestic incidents with chemical weapons. There are various other ways of responding to violations of the international ban on chemical and biological weapons abroad. Currently, there are two means of enforcing the international prohibition; one way is that the international community can induce compliance through sanctions (trade embargoes, freezing of assets and diplomatic isolation), the other is that States can individually or collectively respond to the threat of chemical or biological weapons by using military force.[] (The other approach involves the criminal prosecution of persons responsible for the production, stockpiling, transfer, or use of chemical and biological weapons as already discussed). There are no mandatory sanctions for violators of these laws. The parties to these treaties can individually or collectively impose sanctions, but embargoes are ineffective unless they are universally enforced.[] Because of this, the U.N. Security Council may be asked to respond to violations of the chemical and biological weapons conventions. Articles 41 and 42 of the Charter of the United Nations authorize the Security Council to restore international peace and security, by force if necessary.[] The Security Council solicit UN members to impose sanctions and to use force to ensure compliance or to use military force in response to a violation. Another means is to prosecute the offender. The U.N. Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and later is also established a tribunal for Rwanda. The two tribunals were charged with jurisdiction over violations of the 1908 Hague Convention, which prohibits the use of poisonous weapons, as well as the deployment of weapons “calculated to cause unnecessary suffering” and planning and preparation which includes production and stockpiling such weapons.[] Prosecution and universal condemnation of the use and stockpiling these weapons is well established. It is the purpose of the international community to prevent any unnecessary death or pain by innocent members of society. There have been several instances the international community has been called upon to answer the question of what to do when someone breaches these rules. Continuing below are some of these cases.

Mustard gas and Nerve Gas

In the 1980’s Iran called for the UN to inspect claims that Iraq was using chemical weapons and in the 1986 investigation, the specialists explicitly named Iraq as responsible for the use of the Mustard gas and they probably used nerve gas on occasions that year.[] The investigators examined patients and found their condition consistent with Mustard gas exposure. Symptoms of Mustard gas exposure include:

intense conjunctivitis, palpebral oedema (severe swelling of eyelids from serous fluid), acute rhinorrhea (uncontrolled discharge of nasal mucus), intense erythema (inflammation of the skin) resulting in blackened lesions, particularly in the armpits, genitalia and groin, and in ulcerations and blisters filled with yellow fluid (covering as much as 80% of the body in extreme cases), tracheitis (inflammation of the trachea), laryngitis accompanied by hoarseness and haemorrhagic expectoration (the coughing or vomiting of blood from the chest or lungs) with emission of mucosa, and leucopenia (a disease of the blood which reduces the number of leucocytes, the components in the blood which protect the body against disease causing organisms, leaving patients highly susceptible to infection.)[]

Similarly, the patients who had been exposed to nerve gas also suffered the common ailments:

respiratory problems, acute agitation, nausea and vomiting, urinal and faecal incontinence, bradycardia (significant slowing of the rate of heartbeat), lachrymation (weeping), rhinorrhea (uncontrolled discharge of nasal mucus), transpiration (the discharge of air, vapor or sweat through the skin resulting in dehydration if sufficient fluids are not taken), tremors of the limbs, tongue and mouth, acute miosis (excessive contraction of the pupil) and lack of accommodation of the eye, and a severe lowering of the normal levels of acetylcholine-esterase (which can lead to respiratory paralysis and death).[]

In 1987 and 1988, the specialists discovered an increase in Iraq’s use of nerve gas (on civilians and soldiers alike). In the course of the three investigations in Iraq, the specialists examined or observed 160 patients or cadavers. Iraqi soldiers who were being treated in an Iranian hospital after capture by Iranian forces all claimed to have been exposed to chemical compounds while on board Iraqi aircraft that was engaged in attacking Iranian positions on the war front.[] There were a number of investigations, the fourth of which indicated that Iranian civilians in the town of Oshnaviyeh had been exposed to an attack with Mustard gas by Iraq.[] A later investigation in the town of Khorramshahr found that they were attacked with rockets from a helicopter and there were 100 civilians casualties with at least 15 deaths.[] Following these investigations, the President of the United Nations issued a declaration. According to the declaration, the members of the Security Council “strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons…reaffirm the need to abide strictly by the provisions of the Geneva Protocol of 1925 concerning a ban on the use of poisonous gases and bacteriological weapons,” and “call on the States to adhere to the obligations flowing from the accessions to the Geneva Protocol of 1925.”[] The UN was unwilling to do anything to isolate Iraq. The fear was that if the Security Council isolated Iraq that would give it cause to refuse cooperation in achieving a solution. The primary goal of the UN was to maintain international peace and security, and to that end, it must overlook some things in furtherance of solutions.[] Because of this there was no exact punishment levied for violations of chemical weapon bans.

Chlorine Gas

Chlorine, which is a common household product, can be used in poisonous gas. Chlorine gas can be pressurized and cooled to change it into a liquid so that it can be shipped and stored.[] The liquid turns to gas once it has been exposed to air.[] It can be recognized because of its pungent odor which could be confused with simple bleach. Chlorine gas appears to be yellow-green in color. It is not flammable but when combined with turpentine and ammonia, it can be explosive.[] Chlorine was used during World War I as a choking (pulmonary) agent.[] The extent of poisoning caused by chlorine, like many other chemical weapons, depends on the amount someone was exposed to, the CDC says that “when chlorine gas comes into contact with moist tissues such as the eyes, throat, and lungs, an acid is produced that can damage these tissues.”[] Some symptoms of exposure include:

coughing, chest tightness, burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes, watery eyes, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, burning pain, redness, and blisters on the skin if exposed to the gas.[] There is no antidote for exposure so once exposed all the person can do is try to clean it off their skin as best as possible and get to somewhere with fresh air.[] Along with its use in World War I, Chlorine gas has been used in several other instances. Because of the ease of getting chlorine, it is easy to make.

In World War I, Fritz Haber a talented chemist worked for the Germans and first produced chlorine gas cylinders in April 1915 and used it first against the French Army at Ypres.[] The Germans hesitated to continue forward where they just released the gas, fearing its effects. This allowed British and Canadian troops to retake the ground that would have been lost.[] Chlorine gas destroyed the lungs of those who breathed it in and lead to a slow suffocation.[] The problem with using the weapon in open air warfare is the wind. When the British Army launched a gas attack on 25th September in 1915, the wind carried it back towards them.[] In 1916 gas shells were produced for to remedy this because it increased the army’s range.

Another use of this weapon was on April 6, 2007. Twenty people were killed, 30 wounded, and another 50 had trouble breathing after the attack in Ramadi perpetrated by a suicide bomber detonating a truck loaded with explosives and chlorine gas near a residential complex.[] The truck was headed toward a police checkpoint but the police open fire on it and it changed course instead killing civilians.[] This was the sixth chlorine bomb set off in the Anbar province in the last two months; this region is a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency and a haven for al-Qaeda.[] In another attack in the region, Al Qaeda in Iraq conducted a three pronged suicide car bomb attack using chlorine gas where two police were killed and over 350 were treated for symptoms.[] This attack targeted a tribal leader opposed to al Qaeda’s operations in the region.[] The first bomb went off at 4:11 pm, injuring one Coalition service member and one Iraqi civilian the second explosion occurred at 6:36 pm, killing the two policemen and exposing 100 locals, and the third explosion occurred at 7:13 pm, which left about 250 local civilians suffering from symptoms related to chlorine exposure.[] “Suicide car bombers have used chlorine against Iraqis in Al Anbar a total of five times since January 28,” a Multinational Forces Iraq press release stated.[] It is because Chlorine gas is readily available in Iraq since it is used for water purification and a wide variety of industrial uses. Two chlorine bomb factories were in February in the region.[] These attacks are easy to perpetrate and these dirty bombs are perfect for terrorists who do not worry about the wind affecting them since they commit suicide anyway. It is a deadly weapon in the hands of terrorists. Dirty bombs are a great concern to the United States and others who know that regulating the sale of these chemicals might not be enough to stop those who would seek to use them.

Sarin

Sarin is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, human-made chemical weapon. It was originally developed in Germany in the 1930’s as a pesticide.[] Sarin is a nerve agent and as such it disrupts the functioning of the nervous system. In either liquid or gaseous states, Sarin is toxic. It is very dangerous and relatively easy to acquire. This is because it is made by mixing some commercially available chemicals. The effect of Sarin is that the victim will lose control over his bodily functions.[] This is dangerous because it leads to the victim falling into a coma and suffocating.[] The first signs of Sarin exposure are:

a runny nose, tightness in the chest, pinpoint pupils, eye pain, and blurred vision. The victim will then experience drooling, excessive, sweating, coughing, chest pain, diarrhea, increased urination, confusion, drowsiness, weakness, headache, nausea, and vomiting[].

There are antidotes to Sarin, but they must be provided very soon after exposure to be effective and because of this, civilian targets are likely to be unprepared for an attack.

The most prominent case on Sarin occurred in Japan. On 20 March 1995, a group of terrorists released a deadly nerve gas called Sarin (developed by the Nazis in World War II) in the Tokyo subway.[] It killed 12 people and resulted in another 50 falling seriously ill with thousands more who suffered from the after-effects.[] All the terrorists escaped the incident. They were members of a group known as Aum Shinrikyo which translates to Supreme Truth. The group was founded in 1987 by Shoko Asahara.[] Aum had carried out a test run in June 1994 when it released Sarin in a residential part of Matsumoto. Seven people died and 150 needed hospital treatment.[] Just two days after the Tokyo subway attack, more than 1,000 Japanese police stormed the Aum headquarters. They discovered stockpiles of deadly chemical and biological weapons including enough Sarin to kill four million people.[] Asahara, who had gone into hiding, was arrested on 16 May.[] At the conclusion of the trial, Asahara and eleven of Asahara’s major accomplices were sentenced to death.[]

The attack came at the peak of the Monday morning rush hour. Part of using chemical weapons involves taking care to only injure the targets sought. This can be quite a difficult task to accomplish. In this instance to reduce the risk to the terrorists, they transported the Sarin in a liquid solution form, tightly covered.[] The liquid was in plastic containers which were breached by umbrella tops that were sharpened to release the chemical. The packages then leaked on the floor.[] Once the train got to the next station after the attack was undergone, the passengers staggered or fell out onto the platform.[] If the Sarin had been in pure gas form, it would have been more deadly but more difficult to transport.[] This is one of the best-known uses of chemical weaponry. The authorities are still searching for all the suspects today.

June 2012 Naoko Kikuchi was arrested in connection with the Sarin attack from seventeen years previous.[] Kikuchi helped make the Sarin nerve gas and she admitted involvement in Sarin production but claimed she did not know what it was used for.[] Another cult member, Makoto Hirata, was arrested on New Year’s Eve, and about 200 others have been convicted in connection with the attack.[] For seventeen years, Kikuchi lived a “relatively free and respectable life with remarkable ease.”[] She invented a fake identity often and moved around frequently before moving with Takahashi to an apartment in Sagamihara in 2010.[] Kikuchi said “I had to hide my identity and used an alias all these years while I was on the run…[n]ow I’m arrested and I don’t have to do that anymore. I feel relieved.” This leaves one final suspect: Katsuya Takahashi, 54, who drove cult members to the locations from which they launched their attacks on the subway.[] Takahashi was recently caught on a security camera withdrawing large amounts of money from a bank in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, where he was thought to be working for a construction firm.[] It is feared the publicity surrounding Kikuchi’s arrest will only further Takahashi to hide better. By the time police raided his dormitory room one-morning last week; a spooked Takahashi had packed a few belongings and fled.[] Aum has dwindled in numbers since the arrests. The group once had 10,000 members in Japan and 30,000 in Russia, now, with membership in the hundreds; the cult has renamed itself Aleph and renounced the teachings of its Asahara. []

VX

VX is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent.[] VX originated in the 1950’s in the United Kingdom. It was originally developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s.[] The British chemist was researching different types of insecticides.[] The UK shared this information with the US and the US began to study it and subsequently developed a binary system for delivery of VX in weapons.[] In the 1960s and 1970s the Soviet Union was able to get the intelligence of VX through espionage and developed a program for mass production.[]

It is possible that VX was used during the Iran-Iraq War.[] Following the release of VX into the air, people can be exposed through skin contact, eye contact, or inhalation.[] Unlike other nerve agents, VX does not mix well in water but it can be used to poison water. Symptoms will appear within a few seconds after exposure to the vapor form and within a few minutes to up to 18 hours after exposure to the liquid form.[] VX (as compared with other agents such as Sarin) is more toxic by entry through the skin and somewhat more toxic by inhalation. It is possible that any skin contact with VX could be deadly. Some symptoms include: runny nose, watery eyes, small- pinpoint pupils, eye pain, blurred vision, drooling and excessive sweating, chest tightness, rapid breathing, confusion, and other symptoms that can be confused with the flu.[] A large dose will present in a much more extreme way. Symptoms include: loss of consciousness convulsions, paralysis, and respiratory failure possibly leading to death.[] Recovery from VX exposure is possible, but the antidotes must be used quickly.[] Similar to Sarin, VX was experimented with by the Japanese group Aum. Their use of VX is less well known. Aum members killed Tadahiro Hamaguchi by spraying him with VX while he was walking on an Osaka street.[] Hamaguchi died ten days after exposure and police detected “mono-ethyl-methyl phosphoric acid” in his blood (a byproduct of VX).[] Aum produced VX on at least four separate occasions. A number of Aum members confessed to the use of VX and implicated Tomomitsu Niimi in the use, he has confessed.[] Niimi also attacked Hiroyuki Nagaoka with VX. He was the head of the “Association of the Victims of Aum Shinrikyo.”[] Nagaoka survived but was in a coma for several weeks. These are just the attacks Niimi can be associated with, there are other pending VX investigations.

Anthrax

Anthrax is a serious disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a bacterium that forms spores.[] There are three types of Anthrax: skin, lungs, and digestive. As a chemical with the potential to pose great possible threat to public health that may spread across a large area and need public awareness as well as need a great deal of planning to protect the public’s health, it is classified as a Category A agent by the Center for Disease Control.[] In most cases, early treatment with antibiotics can cure skin Anthrax and even if untreated, 80% of people who are infected this way do not die. Gastrointestinal Anthrax, on the other hand, leads to death in nearly 25-50% of the cases.[] The worst is to inhale it. Half those who inhale Anthrax die.[] The symptoms can be small sores that develops into a blister (when its caused by touching the Anthrax), nausea, loss of appetite, and fever, followed by bad stomach pain (when digested), and cold or flu symptoms and can include a sore throat, mild fever and muscle aches (for inhalation).[] It is because these symptoms seem so common and do not appear life threatening that being treated may not occur to the infected person.[] If treated early Anthrax can be eliminated from the body. There is also a vaccine but it is not yet available to the general public.[] Antrax is a serious issue. Many Americans know about it in the recent years because of the Anthrax scare of 2001.

In October 2001, a series of letters containing Anthrax were sent, killing five people.[] Seventeen others were sick from it and the result of it was that the mail service was temporarily crippled. Letters were sent to the then-NBC anchor Tom Brokaw’s office in New York and to Senator Tom Daschle’s office on Capitol Hill.[] Both letters contained Anthrax. Resulting confusion in Congress took place. More than 30 workers on Capitol Hill tested positive for exposure to Anthrax.[] Senator Daschle, the majority leader, told the news media that the Senate would remain open and Speaker J. Dennis Hastert announced that the House would close.[] The same year, Senator Leahy was addressed a letter that contained Anthrax. It was post-marked in Trenton, New Jersey.[] The search for the source of these Anthrax letters was on going. In 2006, investigators had done “9,100 interviews, sent out 6,000 grand jury subpoenas and conducted 67 searches,” the F.B.I. said.[] The focus was narrowing they had their eye on Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, who committed suicide.[] Ivins was an Army scientist who worked with Anthrax at the biodefense center at Fort Detrick in Frederick Maryland.[] When he learned that federal prosecutors were preparing to indict him for the attacks, he killed himself. There were a growing number of postal workers in DC getting sick or testing positive for exposure to Anthrax.[] Two women, not located in DC, were the attacker’s targets were the fourth and fifth to die (located in New York and Connecticut).[] Authorities were able to determine that a letter delivered to Connecticut victim had been processed within 15 seconds of the letters sent to the two senators.[] After Ivins’ death, prosecutors traced the Anthrax to a flask in his laboratory; the problem was that other researchers also had access to the Anthrax and that their evidence against Ivins was circumstantial.

In 2010 the Justice Department released a report stating it was Ivins alone behind the attacks.[] The investigation included searching his e-mails and recording his conversations, in these conversations Ivins was shown seeking to implicate his colleagues in his attack and to mislead investigators about his ability to make the Anthrax.[] One conversation stated “I, in my right mind, wouldn’t do it,” but he added, “It worries me when I wake up in the morning and I’ve got all my clothes and my shoes on, and my car keys are right beside there.”[] This conversation and others lead to their conclusion even though there was never any witnesses or forensic evidence found. A 96-page summary of the investigation concluded Ivins wanted this attack to produce a vaccine for the public.[] The case is officially closed. Because of the suicide there will be no court case or indictment.

Ricin

Ricin, the toxin found in castor beans. It is poisonous if inhaled, injected, or ingested. It kills cells by inhibiting protein synthesis. [] Treatment is available, but long-term organ damage in survivors is likely.[] If it is inhaled the victim will suffer respiratory distress, fever, cough, nausea, and tightness in the chest.[] Heavy sweating and fluid building up in the lungs may follow.[] If it is ingested, the victim could suffer severe dehydration followed by low blood pressure as well as hallucinations, and seizures.[] Within several days, the person’s liver, spleen, and kidneys might stop working, resulting in death.[] Treatment- A solution of saline and glucose is used to treat Ricin poisoning.[] In 1978, Ricin was used by a Bulgarian dissident to assassinate Georgii Markov by an operative of the Bulgarian secret service.[] A more recent case was in 2008 here in the United States.

In 2008, one hotel in Vegas (Extended Stay America) was the site of Ricin incident which sent seven people including three police officers to the hospital to check for exposure (none was found).[] The incident began with one man whose manager went to evict him and instead discovered guns and an anarchist-type textbook with information about Ricin in it.[] A relative of the man staying in the hotel room came to collect the belongings of his relative and said he found something suspicious.[] He brought a vial that contained Ricin to the manager’s office.[] The man who was occupying the room where Ricin was discovered had already been admitted to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing.[]

Ricin is used more commonly than most people assume. There are many cases in which Ricin was used, here are just a few. In 2004, Ricin powder was sent to US Senate office of Majority Leader Bill Frist.[] In October 2003, Ricin was found at a post office in South Carolina along with a threatening note.[] Authorities did not believe this was a terrorism related incident. The note expressed anger against regulations overseeing the trucking industry.[] On 5 January 2003, six Algerians were arrested at their apartment in London, United Kingdom on charges of “being in the possession of objects which give rise to reasonable suspicions of the intention of carrying out preparing, or instigating an act of terrorism” and for trying to “develop or produce a chemical weapon.”[] There were traces of Ricin in the apartment they occupied.[] Castor beans and equipment for crushing the beans were also discovered. The Algerians are believed to be part of a group known as the “Chechen network.”[] On 19 June 2002, Kenneth Olsen, 48, was arrested for possession of the biological agent Ricin in his Spokane Valley office.[] A co worker turned him in for printing documents labeled “how to kill,” which discussed undetectable poisons, and bomb-making that Olsen had printed out from his computer.[] On a stranger note, Olsen insisted the research was for a Boy Scout project. Further investigation of his office produced test tubes, castor beans, glass jars, and approximately 1 gram of Ricin.[] There are many more cases. The ease of acquiring and using Ricin make it available not just to governments and terrorists, but as described, even regular criminals obtain and use it.

Issues in Biological and Chemical Weapons

After learning of the widespread use of these weapons, they seem to be as useful as guns would be in the hands of terrorists or civilians. The same death and damage might occur, so why there is no right to chemical weapons like there is to bear arms? Many countries use deterrence as the reason for international condemnation. As one article put it, “deterrence has been invoked as the primary explanation of two central phenomena of twentieth century international relations, the non-use of nuclear weapons and the non-use of chemical weapons.”[] One hope is that not using the weapon against our enemies will stop them from using them against us. The Chemical Weapons Covenant codifies this deterrent. U.S. restraint with regard to nuclear and chemical use could be attributed in part to emerging American perceptions of these weapons as “disproportionate” and against America’s “moral identity.”[] Chemical weapons are difficult to contain based on wind conditions (for those transported by gas). Civilians may then be affected disproportionately. The argument is that bullets and bombs are more direct and can be easier to assess the impact on civilian populations. In the US and around the world there is a stigma against chemical weapons more so than any other weapon. This may be due largely to testing on human subjects, and the evocation of Holocaust imagery (gas chambers). Norms can be institutionalized from different sources such as moral condemnation and international relations. The existence of these moral condemnations did not prevent the widespread use of chemical weapons by both sides in World War I however. The use of various gases in that war caused some 1,300,000 casualties, more than 100,000 of them fatal. [] Another argument against chemical and biological weapons is that they create unnecessary suffering. This might not be too compelling an argument to those who suffered (in the recent war) due to IEDs or similar weapons.

Conclusion on Chemical Weapons Laws

In conclusion, chemical and biological weapons are great concerns to the health and safety of persons everywhere. These weapons have been part of international law since before the extent of the knowledge we have today was even conceptualized. The idea of warfare with these weapons is scary enough, but the use by terrorists and even just civilian criminals makes them extremely important to regulate and learn about. Destroying stockpiles of these weapons is useful but studying them is also necessary.

From the Hague Conference of 1899 (banning the use of asphyxiating shells ) to the Geneva Protocol of 1925, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) of 1972 and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) of 1993 and specific laws criminalizing the use in nations, these weapons are known to be illegal. Regardless, there have been a number of uses of them which has lead to court cases in the United States and outside in the international Tribunals. Unlike a gunshot to the head, these weapons are not all instantly deadly and some can be cured. There is no cure for Mustard gas, chlorine gas, or Ricin. There is an antidote for Sarin, VX and Anthrax. Depending on the mode of exposure and the amount certain weapons may be negligible or deadly. Death from Ricin poisoning could take place within 36 to 72 hours of exposure, depending on the route of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, or injection) and the dose received.[] With Sarin, mild or moderate exposure usually leads to the victim recover completely, while severely exposed people are not likely to survive.[] Similarly, mild or moderately exposed persons with VX usually recover completely but those severely exposed people will die.[] Exposure to Mustard gas is usually not fatal, in World War I it killed fewer than 5% of the people who were exposed and got medical care.[] Chlorine gas is mostly an irritant unless not mitigated, in such an extreme dose it can lead to suffocation. Anthrax depends on the mode of exposure. Touching Anthrax leads to death only 20 percent of the time, digesting it leads to between one-fourth and more than half of cases lead to death, and inhalation can lead to death among half of those exposed.[] The major concern, even with some cures and non deadly exposures, is that it is an easy weapon to use. Chemical and biological weapons can be known as the poor man’s bomb. In the hands of anyone it can cause terror and pain. It can also be disproportionate and effect many civilians. That is why it is so internationally condemned. It has a moral stigma. Even striking back using such weapons once they have been used first by someone else is considered immoral and in most cases illegal. These weapons are a great concern since they have been used so often considering how universally they are banned.

 

[] Id.


[] Timothy L. H. McCormack , International Law and the Use of Chemical Weapons During the Gulf War, 21 Cal. W. Int’l L.J. 1 (1991).


[] Id.


[] Timothy L. H. McCormack , International Law and the Use of Chemical Weapons During the Gulf War, 21 Cal. W. Int’l L.J. 1 (1991).


[] Id.


[] Richard Prince, supra.


[] Id.


[] International Committee of the Red Cross, Customary IHL, http://www.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1_cha_chapter21_rule72.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] International Committee of the Red Cross, Customary IHL, http://www.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1_cha_chapter21_rule72.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] International Committee of the Red Cross, Customary IHL, http://www.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1_cha_chapter24_rule74


[] Id.


[] International Committee of the Red Cross, Customary IHL, http://www.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1_cha_chapter24_rule74


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] National Center for Environmental Health, History of US Chemical Weapons Elimination, http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/demil


[] Cornell Legal Information Institute, 50 USC Chapter 32 Chemical and Biological Warfare Program, http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/chapter-32.


[] US Army Chemical Matters Activity, CSE End of Operations, http://www.cma.army.mil/cse_end_of_ops.aspx.


[] Id.


[] Matthew Meselson, Julian Robinson, A Draft Convention to Prohibit Biological and Chemical Weapons Under International Criminal Law, 28-WTR Fletcher F. World Aff. 57 (2004).


[] Federation of American Scientists, BWC and CWC, http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/bwc/text/bwc.htm


[] Matthew Meselson, supra.


[] US v. Ghane, 673 F.3d 771 (2011).


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] US v. Crocker, 260 Fed.Appx. 794, 2008.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Crocker, 260 Fed.Appx. 794.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Micheal P. Scharf, Clear and Present Danger: Enforcing the International Ban on Biological and Chemical Weapons Through Sanctions, Use of Force, and Criminalization, 20 Mich. J. Int’l L. 477 (1999).


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Timothy L. H. McCormack , Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Timothy L. H. McCormack , Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] The Center for Disease Control, What is Chlorine Gas, http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/chlorine/basics/facts.asp


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Spartacus Educational, Chlorine Gas, http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWchlorine.htm.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Kirk Semple, Chlorine Attack in Iraq Kills 20, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/06/world/middleeast/06cnd-iraq.html?pagewanted=print


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Bill Rogio, Al Qaeda’s Chlorine Attacks: The Dirty War in Anbar, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/03/al_qaedas_chlorine_a.php


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Federation of American Scientists, Sarin Fact Sheet, http://www.fas.org/programs/bio/factsheets/Sarin.html


[] Federation of American Scientists, Sarin, Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] BBC, The Japanese Sarin Cult, http://www.bbcactivevideoforlearning.com/1/TitleDetails.aspx?TitleID=23268.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] BBC, The Japanese Sarin Cult, Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Nicholas D. Kristof , Terror In Tokyo: The Overview, http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0320.html


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Justin McCurry, Japan’s 17-Year Manhunt for Sarin Gas Suspects Draws Closer to Completion, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/10/japan-manhunt-Sarin-suspects-completion


[] Id.


[] Justin McCurry, Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Center for Disease Control, What VX is, http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/VX/basics/facts.asp


[] Id.


[] The Federation of American Scientists, VX Nerve Agent, http://www.faqs.org/espionage/Vo-Z/VX-Agent.html


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Center for Disease Control, What VX is, Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Center for Disease Control, What VX is, Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] The Federation of American Scientists, The Operation of Aum, http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/1995_rpt/aum/part04.htm


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] The Center for Disease Control, What is Antrax, http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/Anthrax/needtoknow.asp.


[] The Center for Disease Control, What is Antrax, Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] The New York Times, Anthrax, http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/a/Anthrax/index.html


[] The New York Times, A Look Back on the Anthrax Attacks, http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/08/01/us/0802-ANTHRAX_2.html


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] The New York Times, Anthrax, Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Joby Warrick, FBI Investigation of 2001 Anthrax Attacks Concluded; US Releases Details, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/19/AR2010021902369_pf.html


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] National Counter Terrorism Center, Ricin, http://www.nctc.gov/site/technical/Ricin.html


[] Id.


[] National Counter Terrorism Center, Ricin, Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Chronology of Incidents Involving Ricin, http://cns.miis.edu/reports/Ricin_chron.htm


[] Mary Manning, Steve Marcus, The Latest on the Ricin Incident,http://www.lasvegassun.com/blogs/news/2008/feb/29/latest-Ricin-incident-update/


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Supra.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Id.


[] Richard Prince, Nina Tannenwald, Supra.


[] Id..


[] Timothy L. H. McCormack , Supra.


[] Center for Disease Control, Ricin, http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/Ricin/facts.asp


[] Center for Disease Control, Sarin, http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/Sarin/basics/facts.asp


[] Center for Disease Control, What VX is, Supra.


[] Center for Disease Control, Mustard gas, http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/sulfurmustard/basics/facts.asp


[] Center for Disease Control, Anthrax, Supra.

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