Quick overview about Biological Weapons

This article is mainly devoted to biological weapons, countries that have biological weapons, bioterrorism, biological weapons and International law.

Covid-19 or Corona virus is the most recent hit for the mankind. Overall, each and every field in the world now facing a great recession. For instance world economy and tourism industry are now collapsing.

We still don’t know who should be responsible for this tragedy. It is still a question how this virus was origin. Some States criticizing each other rather than responding for this challenge.

However with this Pandemic, the International community now focusing on biological weapons. If you interested about biological weapons in International Relations perspective, then this article is for you.

What are Biological Weapons?

Biological weapons also called germ weapons, are microorganisms like virus, bacteria, fungi or the toxins. They are produced deliberately to cause diseases or deaths in humans, animals and plants.

Biological weapons like Anthrax, Botulinum toxin, Plague can be caused for massive Public health challenges with large number of deaths in a short period of time. Bioterrorism can be also caused for epidemic situations. For instance Ebola or Lassa viruses were used as biological agents.

Some famous biological agents are anthrax, plague, smallpox, Tularemia.

Countries that have biological weapons

Generally more than 16 countries have had or suspected of having biological weapon program.
Canada, China, Cuba, USA, United Kingdom, Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea are some of them.

But according to the Biological Weapons Convention, development and use of offensive biological weapons by signatory countries are prohibited.

What is Bioterrorism?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Bioterrorism is the intentional release of virus, bacteria or other germs that can kill or sick people, livestock or crops.”

You might be wandering “have any terrorist groups ever tried to use biological weapons? Yes!
For instance the Japanese Cult Aum Shinrikyo have tried to weaponized Botulinum toxin and Anthrax in mid 1990s. But it was unsuccessful.

Few days after September 11 attacks in USA the series of Anthrax-laced letters which sent to several news Agencies and to US senators was accounted for 5 killings and sickened 17 of others.

Why countries try to use biological weapons?

  • First reason is cost for biological weapons are extremely cheap comparatively with cost for nuclear weapon programs. It estimated that 1 gram of toxin causes for 10 million deaths of people. Biological weapons can be known as poor man’s atomic bomb.
  • Easy to manufacture
  • Biological weapons cause fear

When biological weapons were used?

  • During World War 1- German army developed anthrax, cholera for use as biological weapons.
  • 1966- USA conducted a vulnerability test by releasing harmless biological stimulants into New York City Subway system with the aim to avoid biological weapon attack.
  • 1985-1991 – Iraq developed offensive biological weapons capability with Anthrax, Botulinum toxin and Aflatoxin.

Biological Weapons and International Law

Geneva Protocol 1925

The protocol for the prohibition of the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and of bacteriological methods of War was signed on 17th June 1925 by the member states of the League of Nations.

Furthermore this Treaty was entered into the force on 8 February 1925.

It has 130 state parties including five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and without 64 WHO member states.

Geneva Protocol prohibited

  • The use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices.
  • Extend their prohibition to the use of bacteriological methods of warfare.

The provisions set out by the protocol are now entered into the Customary International Law. Consequently all the states are bounded by it even they are not parties to the protocol.

Nevertheless Geneva Protocol prohibited only the use of such weapons but not their possession. It is one of the huge weaknesses in this protocol.

At that time some state parties kept the right to use weapons in retaliation against others in such attacks. In the same time some countries kept the right to use of weapons against the states that not party to the protocol. Of course there should be a comprehensive context about prohibition of biological weapons.

1972 biological weapons convention

The convention on the prohibition of the development production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons and on their destruction signed on 26 march 1972.

It entered into the force on 26 March 1975.

It has 146 state parties including five permanent members of the United Nation Security Council but not including 48 WHO members.

We have arrived at to the conclusion.

2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and covid-19 outbreak in 2019/2020 showed us our vulnerability and our weaknesses. And it revealed how much weakened the public health system in so called developed or strongest countries.

From my perspective, without criticizing each others, the laws on biological weapons must be tightened up. Moreover United Nations are the organization which established to maintain global peace and security should give the priority for the future of the world.

Undoubtedly each and every country should strengthen their Public Health Services. For instance trained medical professional, basic medical facilities, medical equipments are essential for an every country.

Finally strengthening regionalism and global affairs in corporation means will be an answer for all burning issues.

What do you think about this matter?


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