The use of biological warfare has long been considered a breach of International Law. The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare signed in Geneva, Switzerland on 17 June 1925 states in part:
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"Whereas the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids materials or devices, has been justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilized world; andThere are currently 138 states that have signed this protocol, including Mexico and Guatemala.
Whereas the prohibition of such use has been declared in Treaties to which the majority of Powers of the world are Parties; and
To the end that this prohibition shall be universally accepted as a part of International Law, binding alike the conscience and the practice of nations;[...]
That the High Contracting Parties, so far as they are not already Parties to Treaties prohibiting such use, accept this prohibition, agree to extend this prohibition to the use of bacteriological methods of warfare and agree to be bound as between themselves according to the terms of this declaration."
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Map of parties to the Geneva Protocol.
Parties with no reservationsUnlike many international laws, this prohibition has seen widespread compliance. As the International Committee of the Red Cross states,
Parties with withdrawn reservations
Parties with implicit reservations
Parties with unwithdrawn reservations
"The Protocol has been respected in nearly all of the hundreds of armed conflicts that have taken place since 1925. The handful of well-known and high-profile violations have provoked widespread international condemnation and in some cases criminal prosecutions."This Protocol was followed up by the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction on 10 April 1972. This Convention also saw widespread support, having 170 parties including, again, Mexico and Guatemala.
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Participation in the Biological Weapons Convention as of April 2013 (most recently changed in April 2, 2013)
Signed and ratified
Acceded or succeeded
Unrecognized state, abiding by treaty
Relevant portions of this convention are as follows:
"Recognizing that an agreement on the prohibition of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons represents a first possible step towards the achievement of agreement on effective measures also for the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons, and determined to continue negotiations to that end,
Determined for the sake of all mankind, to exclude completely the possibility of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins being used as weapons,
Convinced that such use would be repugnant to the conscience of mankind and that no effort should be spared to minimize this risk,
Have agreed as follows:
Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:
(1) Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;
(2) Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to destroy, or to divert to peaceful purposes, as soon as possible but not later than nine months after entry into force of the Convention, all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment and means of delivery specified in article I of the Convention, which are in its possession or under its jurisdiction or control. In implementing the provisions of this article all necessary safety precautions shall be observed to protect populations and the environment.
Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly, and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any State, group of States or international organizations to manufacture or otherwise acquire any of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery specified in article I of this Convention.
Article IVSo, given that under international law, the stockpiling and use of biological weapons is prohibited, given that this prohibition is written under extremely broad terms, so as to fully encapsulate any possible weaseling out of these treaty obligations, then why haven't the governments of Mexico and Guatemala been sent to The Hague?
Each State Party to this Convention shall, in accordance with its constitutional processes, take any necessary measures to prohibit and prevent the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, or retention of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment and means of delivery specified in article I of the Convention, within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction or under its control anywhere."
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