<< view all Publications

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Force of Law or Law of Force?

GCSP Policy Paper 2012/10 (English & French)

Release Date:

September 2012

Download publication

Key Points

• There have been worrying reports about possible loss of control or transfer of Syrian chemical weapons to non-state armed groups as well as use of such weapons against combatants or civilians.

• Responses by the international community have consisted of clear warnings against such developments as well as low-scale military contingency planning by Western states.

• Syria has shifted its policy from denial to indirect admission of possession of chemical weapons in a move to deter adversaries.

• Legally speaking, although Syria is not party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), it is under a legal obligation not to use chemical weapons under any circumstances.

• The challenge for the international community is to convince the Syrian leadership to maintain its control over its stockpiles and not to use them against any target. Threats of prosecution of leaders and commanders for war crimes or crimes against humanity may help in this endeavour and may be more effective and credible than threats of military intervention.

Also available in French:

Photo by: Thomas Keith Aitken