Monday, December 05, 2005

Treaty Amended to Outlaw WMD at Sea

The Arms Control Association reports Treaty Amended to Outlaw WMD at Sea .
States will be able to subscribe to new international instruments early next year making it a crime to use nonmilitary ships to intentionally transport or launch attacks with biological, chemical, or nuclear arms. Employing these types of weapons in attacks against or from a fixed platform at sea, such as an oil rig, will also be illegal.

These new prohibitions are part of two protocols concluded Oct. 14 to amend the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, also known as the SUA Convention. The protocols will be opened for signature Feb. 14, 2006, after official texts are completed in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

The protocol pertaining to ships will enter into force 90 days after 12 countries sign it without reservations. The fixed-platform protocol only requires the signature of three countries without reservations to trigger its 90-day countdown to entry into force. As with all treaties, only those countries signing the protocols will be legally bound by them.

An Oct. 21 Department of State fact sheet hailed the protocols as providing “the first international treaty framework for combating and prosecuting individuals who use a ship as a weapon or means of committing a terrorist attack, or transport by ship terrorists or cargo intended for use in connection with weapons of mass destruction programs.”

In addition to prohibiting shipments of unconventional weapons, the first protocol outlaws the transport of “any equipment, materials or software or related technology that significantly contributes to the design, manufacture or delivery of a [biological, chemical, or nuclear weapon], with the intention that it will be used for such purpose.” Many items used in producing unconventional weapons are dual-use, meaning they have both civilian and military applications, so proving intent could be challenging...
...Under international law, a vessel cannot be stopped and boarded in international waters without the consent of the government whose flag the ship is flying, except if the ship is suspected of piracy, slavery, or illegal broadcasting. The new protocol does not change this rule, but it does outline a voluntary expedited interdiction procedure. Through the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a government may grant prior authority for its flagged ships to be stopped and searched if a boarding request by another state goes unanswered for four hours. The IMO is a 166-member specialized UN agency responsible for international shipping matters.
I love treaties.

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