International Laws Relevant to Weapons of Mass Destruction
There are several laws that have been enacted concerning weapons of mass destruction. There are several international treaties that deal with weapons of mass destruction. The treaties are operationalized and enforced by several international organizations like the United Nations as well as the military departments in various countries of the world. Federal governments have equally played an important role in ensuring that laws on weapons of mass destruction are not only enacted but also made to have an impact on the lives of the people by regulating military actions. The laws are pivotal in minimizing cases of terrorism that are increasingly becoming common as days go by. Weapons of mass destruction are devices that are capable of killing so many people if they are deployed to do so intentionally. Examples of weapons of mass destruction include biological weapons, chemical weapons, radiological devices, nuclear devices and explosives amongst others. Even the devices that have not been disclosed or developed but are geared towards killing many people are part of weapons of mass destruction. The paper has exhaustively explored the international laws that control weapons of mass destruction.
Laws on Weapons of Mass Destruction
Weapons of mass destruction are regulated by treaties and conventions that are international in nature. Some of the countries have not ratified or signed the treaties or laws on weapons of mass destruction. The laws governing weapons of mass destruction have got a lot of concentration on the proliferation of the weapons in new countries. Only USA has used weapons of mass destruction in a war, and that was during the Second World War. The other countries that are known to manufacture weapons of mass destruction are France, China, Russia, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Belgium, Turkey, Netherlands, and Germany. Agreements and treaties of weapons of mass destruction are enforced by the International Atomic Energy Association, United Nations as well as the military of countries that are very powerful in the world. For instance, the USA spearheaded the war against Iraq because it was feared to be manufacturing very dangerous biological and chemical nuclear weapons. Embargoes have also been imposed to countries believed to be manufacturing weapons of mass destruction; for instance, North Korea. Civilians are not allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction as they can use them to destroy lives of many people. The laws are important in curtailing domestic terrorism because it is very hard to construct or obtain weapons of mass destruction. All criminal laws all over the world that have been written by experts and attorneys tackle the issue of weapons of mass destruction apart from other serious crimes like manslaughter, murder, rape, robbery and violence among others. Different governments have come up with various articles on laws about weapons of mass destruction. These laws do not give individuals an opportunity to develop weapons of mass destruction because they can use them to cause mayhem.
Weapons of mass destruction pose a threat to world security and have become an agenda on world security and foreign policy. Homeland Security Appropriations Act allows for the construction of a fence along the border of Mexico and the USA. This is important in increasing the level of detecting nuclear weapons in ports. Furthermore, it should be understood that the law allows for the checking of the security levels in chemical plants. The UN Security Council in the year 2004 ratified the UN Security Council Resolution 1540. This resolution was binding to all the countries that were members of the UN. Chapter seven of the UN Charter enhanced the enforcement of measures that would minimize the proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction. If the UNSCR 1540 is put into practice, there will be no country or organization that will be a beneficiary or source when it comes to weapons of mass destruction. Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty does not allow nuclear explosions anywhere in the world even if the weapons are used for trial purposes. The UN General assembly supported it by putting in place the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test –Ban Treaty Organization so that countries would not take part in the production and use of weapons that would bring about a lot of destruction to life. The Partial Test Ban Treaty which was established in the year 1963 prohibited the testing of the nuclear weapons under water, in the outer space or in the atmosphere. However, it did not ban nuclear weapons that tested underground. The other law that was important in controlling nuclear weapons is the United Nations Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty was international in nature and it looked forward to the spreading of technological and nuclear weapons. In addition, the treaty was essential in promoting cooperation in terms of utilizing nuclear energy. It must also be understood that the treaty applied in attaining the objective of nuclear disarmament as well as general one. It is the only agreement internationally on the nuclear disarmament. Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention prohibits stockpiling, production and development of toxin and biological weapons. It also specifies that such weapons are supposed to be destroyed. The treaty came into force in the year 1975 after being signed in London, Washington and Moscow on the 10th of April, 1972. The Cartagena protocol about bio safety which came into force in the year 2000 sought to protect diversity against risks that would be caused by organisms.
Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of the year 1991 gave the USA the ability to sanction countries that played a central role in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, there would be international sanctions imposed on countries that were at the center of manufacturing biological and chemical weapons and using them to harm their own citizens. Furthermore, countries that took part in the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons were not spared by the sanctions. According to the treaty, more effective ways would be developed so as to regulate the movement of equipment, technology and materials used in the production of biological and chemical weapons. It demanded the delivery of report on the weapons that have been produced, stockpiled, developed or transferred. Chemical Weapons Convention does not allow for the manufacture of chemical weapons. It also verifies if countries comply with requirements without which stern actions are taken against them. It gives different countries room to consult with an aim of cooperating with one another in fighting the manufacture and use of weapons of mass destruction. International law on using force deals with threats that are associated with using force. No country is allowed to use force or threaten to use force in resolving disputes where there are other mechanisms that can be used. The international law that does not allow for the use of force is also clear that weapons of mass destruction should not be developed due to their deleterious effects. The law has given a clear guideline in terms of the weapons that countries are supposed manufacture and the instances whereby the use of force can be justified. International humanitarian law which is not related directly to the manufacture of weapons has shown a lot of concern on the types of weapons that countries are able to use whenever they have conflicts with others. The use of superfluous weapons with the ability to cause unnecessary injury and suffering is prohibited. This is a clear indication that countries are not allowed to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and use them to destroy human beings. It is worth noting that there are several treaties tasked with the responsibility of controlling arms and regulating the development of weapons that can destroy so many people and the environment. The treaties do not allow for the use of biological and chemical weapons. Such international laws have proven important in controlling the manufacture and use of weapons of mass destruction that are not very good for the society.
The Hague Declaration ratified by very powerful countries in the world does not allow countries to diffuse asphyxiating gases that are very dangerous to human beings and the environment that they live in. The declaration was promoted by St. Petersburg declaration of the year 1868. In the declaration countries renounced the application of explosive projectiles in war. If used, the projectiles were supposed to weigh below 400 grams. This was guided by the principle of using arms that would not bring suffering to humanity especially those with various forms of disabilities. The USA and Russia which were at the center of cold war played an important role in fighting weapons of mass destruction through the various treaties that they agreed on being powerful countries. They agreed to eliminate shorter and intermediate missiles in the year 1987. Furthermore, there would be no underground tests on nuclear weapons and all the activities of countries exploring the outer space would be under check so that they do not in any way use weapons of mass destruction to harm others. The two states also ratified the treaty that did not allow for the manufacture, development and use of nuclear weapons in the Latin America regions (Busch & Joyner, 2010). This was an indication that indeed the two countries objected the use of weapons of mass destruction although they took part in the manufacture of such weapons. This appeared as there was double speaking. It is worth noting that countries were getting ready for war which had the possibility of occurring anytime and so they were not taking chances but getting ready for the war. The Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons treaty was another set of laws that checked on the weapons of mass destruction. Other agreements include prohibition of placing nuclear weapons and those with the ability to destroy lives on ocean floors and sea beds. In addition, there were agreements that governed the activities of countries that were conducted in other celestial bodies apart from the moon. South Pacific and Africa were to be exempted from nuclear weapons because of their destructive nature.
The treaty that limited ballistic missiles abbreviated as ABM treaty of the year 1972 did not allow for the use of ballistic missiles. This strengthened nuclear deterrence as each and every super power was vulnerable to attacks by nuclear weapons. During the cold war, there were several initiatives that were put in place in order to control arms that were related to biological weapons. There was a convention that prohibited the stockpiling, production and development of toxin and Bacteriological weapons. Such weapons were supposed to be destroyed because they were very harmful to humanity. The convention went hand in hand with the position of Geneva protocol which also banned production, acquisition, development, retention and stockpiling of biological weapons. The seventy-six countries that ratified the treaty decided to conduct disarmament exercise in so far as biological weapons are concerned. States guided by the agreement were not expected to produce, stockpile and develop biological weapons. This is a deterrent strategy when it comes to eliminating biological weapons which are equally very dangerous to human beings. In another proof that the UN is central in the curbing of weapons of mass destruction, the information that has been presented below or the example given below can help in such a case. The UN came up with the convention that suppressed acts of nuclear terrorism. This was meant to curb cases of bombings by terrorist who had perfected the art of using weapons of mass destruction to cause mayhem. The UN clearly defined all the weapons of mass destruction to include lethal and explosive devices. The weapons were defined as devices that are capable to kill many people, because serious body injury and lead to material damage should they be released to the environment or to attack individuals.
The weapons of mass destruction that the UN was talking about included radioactive materials, biological agents, nuclear weapons and toxins. The convention adheres to standard laws that were initially used in antiterrorism treaties. International laws on terrorism have equally been used to object or hamper the productivity of weapons of mass destruction. This is a strategy that is geared towards curbing terrorism that uses weapons of mass destruction that is known to cause a lot of destruction to property and loss of lives. Many countries are in full support of laws against weapons of mass destruction so that at the end of it all, they are better placed to fight terrorism working together with other countries. In the instances where terrorists use weapons of mass destruction, international law on terrorism holds that they be extradited or prosecuted (Busch & Joyner, 2010). This is rather a reactive rather than a preventive measure when it comes to dealing with weapons of mass destruction. There are individuals who do not mind about the law provided they have been able to cause mayhem by killing individuals through terrorism acts. This means that the way to go is to develop mechanisms that would help in preventing terrorists from possessing weapons with the potential of destroying several lives. The international anti-terrorism law on weapons of mass destruction equally targets countries that look forward to supporting terrorists with dangerous weapons that they can in turn use to cause destruction to precious lives and properties that people have really struggled to acquire. International law spearheaded by the UN Security Council and backed by the USA has proven very important when it comes to fighting weapons of mass destruction. It has criminalized possession and development of weapons of mass destruction. In addition, it is important to take note that the use of chemical and biological weapons is not allowed.
The Havard /Sussex Draft Convention is prohibitive on acquiring, retaining, stockpiling, producing and developing biological weapons. Moreover, it is not legal to use chemical weapons or biological weapons or even transferring them. The law supports the suppression of terrorists who think of using weapons of mass destruction. For this matter, therefore, terrorists are not in any way supposed to be financed to buy weapons of mass destruction, transfer and use weapons of mass destruction. Nobody is allowed to produce, stockpile, acquire, retain or transfer biological or chemical weapons. All countries are supposed to criminalize such acts as has been described. Furthermore, it is important to ban the use of biological and chemical weapons. If in any way anybody is found manufacturing such weapons, distributing them or purchasing them, he or she will face the full force of the law. Even if they are government officials, the law does not spare them but deal with them ruthlessly. Crucial aspects of the law include criminalizing using biological, chemical and pathogenic agents (Emadi-Coffin, 2002). Moreover, there are regulations pertaining transfer and possession of pathogenic materials and this includes tracking complex weapons and bio-research. There is no room for smuggling weapons of mass destruction and investigations would be undertaken to establish the manner and extent to which weapons have been distributed in readiness for use. An institute would be established so as to deal with all the requirements of the law and this becomes difficult then the need to have the law enforced can be hard to arrive at. The Bio security convention is geared towards improving security and safety of microbes during a time when weapons of mass destruction are increasingly being used in the world. This means that it would be hard to make weapons of mass destruction if individuals fail to adhere to the requirements on securing microbes that are useful in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. In as much as countries may not agree on the requirement of the bio security treaty, it is important to take note of the fact that trying is quite different from failing to try at all. However, the future of weapons of mass destruction is heavily dependent on how countries are going to control the materials used in manufacturing weapons.
In conclusion, it should be understood that the most powerful countries in the world like the USA and Russia played an important role when it came to the development of treaties to control the manufacture, distribution and use of weapons of mass destruction. The treaties required the goodwill of the different countries otherwise it would be very hard to control the manufacture, distribution and use of weapons of mass destruction. The UN through the Security Council was equally instrumental in regulating the use of weapons of mass destruction. It was concerned about the need by countries not to pile weapons of mass destruction in preparation for war. Countries that supported support to terrorists using weapons of mass destruction were urged not to give support to them because if they did so, it would be hard to deal with the threat of terrorism either at the national, regional or international level. This is the reason as to why countries have also been encouraged to support anti-terrorism laws because if the terrorists are controlled, the use of weapons of mass destruction would be checked without a lot struggles (Joyner, 2009). The treaties and conventions binding the use nuclear are very categorical on the use and handling of such weapons otherwise cases of misusing weapons of mass destruction would have been higher. The problem with the laws, treaties and conventions on the use of weapons is that they are not binding to all countries but those that have signed them. In addition, even countries that have signed them are known to defy them further compounding the problem associated with weapons of mass destruction. In other words, it is like the laws on weapons of mass destruction are implemented selectively and when countries will. This leaves people wondering they were put in place in the first place. It is quite absurd that countries that are in the forefront in agitating against the manufacture of dangerous weapons are the ones that are involved in developing the weapons without qualms. They are only concerned about other countries manufacturing such weapons but do not talk about the weapons that they manufacture. This is hypocrisy of the highest order and that is why the war against the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction has never been won and if the trend continues it would never be won.
- Barbara Emadi-Coffin (2002) Rethinking International Organisation: Deregulation and Global Governance, Chapter 3 “Reconstructing International Regulation,”
- Busch, N. E., & Joyner, D. (2009). Combating weapons of mass destruction: The future of international nonproliferation policy. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
- Gazzini, T. (2005). The changing rules on the use of force in international law. Manchester: Juris Pub.
- Hashmi, S. H., & Lee, S. (2004). Ethics and weapons of mass destruction: Religious and secular perspectives. Cambridge, UK [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press.
- Joyner, D. (2009). International law and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Thomas G. Weiss and Rorden Wilkinson (2014) International Organization and Global Governance, Chapter 2 “The Evolution of International Law.”