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Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

  The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is an international agency, located in The Hague, The Netherlands. Its mission is to promote membership of the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty which entered into force in 1997 and mandated the elimination of "the scourge of chemical weapons forever and to verify the destruction of the declared chemical weapons stockpiles within stipulated deadlines."[1] It organizes inspection procedures to verify compliance with the treaty, and provides technical support to countries who have inherited a legacy of chemical weapons stockpiles from previous governments.

On 7 September 2000 the OPCW and the United Nations signed a cooperation agreement outlining how they were to coordinate their activities.[1]

The sacking of the Director-General in 2002

Between its formation in 1997, and 2002, the OPCW was widely seen as a highly effective organization under its first Director-General José Bustani, so much so that he was unanimously re-elected in 2000 a year early.[2]

Then in the beginning of 2002 the mood changed, and the United States, both behind the scenes and in public, organized to have the Director-General ousted before his second term had expired.[citation needed] The related event at the time was the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its official pretext of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, which were taken to include chemical weapons. The OPCW was known to have been actively pursuing its mandate by negotiating with Iraq's leaders for their cooperation with the Chemical Weapons Convention, and this would have included inspections that could have verified their compliance with disarmament obligations, and jeopardized the case for war.

The public campaign calling for the removal of Director-General cited mismanagement and financial issues that threatened the existence of the organization.[3]. The method of his ousting was highly irregular and could only be done outside the constitution of the organization.[4] In 21 April 2002, a special session was called, at which Jose Bustani presented his defence[5] before being voted out of office 48 to 7 with 43 abstentions.[6] Three weeks later, the United States paid its 2002 contribution to the Organization[7].

It has been reported in many places that the behind-the-scenes campaign was orchestrated by the US Undersecretary for Arms Control, John Bolton, who made threats to other nations that if they did not vote for the resolution to remove the Director-General, he would arrange for the United States to destroy the organization completely.[citation needed] In practice, the United States has accounted for the vast majority of the weapons destroyed under the CWC as well as providing material support and funding for the reduction efforts of several other countries.

The United Kingdom, a major partner in the United States invasion of Iraq, provided valuable assistance in the campaign. Repeated questions in the United Kingdom Parliament from MPs failed to obtain any specific allegations against the Director-General beyond the fact that there had been a vote by members against him.[8][9] After the event, all the official allegations evaporated. The following year the International Labour Organization found that his employment had been terminated on the insistent request of the United States and, while the procedure was technically correct, it constituted "an unacceptable violation of the principles on which international organisations' activities are founded..., by rendering officials vulnerable to pressures and to political change." Accordingly, since he was not seeking reinstatement, he was awarded €50,000 in damages.[2]


In 2005, spokesman Peter Kaiser was publicly quoted questioning whether the use of white phosphorus in battle was legal under the Chemical Weapons Convention. He stated that if it had been used offensively against personnel in a manner that exploited the toxic or caustic properties of phosphorus, it would be forbidden. The use of white phosphorus is regulated, however, under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, not the Chemical Weapons Convention.


  1. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution session 55 (retrieved 2007-08-21)
  2. ^ Judgment No. 2232. International Labour Organization (23 July 2003). Retrieved on 2007-08-22.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Organisation_for_the_Prohibition_of_Chemical_Weapons". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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