The Peace Palace building
The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, seat of the International Court of Justice | Photo: ICJ, wikimedia commons | Public Domain

Chemical Attacks under the Convention against Torture: A New Possible Avenue?

On the 8th of June 2023, Canada and the Netherlands initiated proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Syria for violating the Convention against Torture (CAT) by inter alia using chemical weapons against the civilian population. This would be the first time ever that the ICJ  had the opportunity to deal with chemical weapons in contentious proceedings. This blog post will briefly summarize the most pertinent legal questions and political implications that arise in the context of the ICJ proceedings. It will be demonstrated that the prohibition of chemical weapons is not based on a single legal framework. Rather, we need to look at the chemical weapons taboo comprehensively and from a perspective of multi-normativity.


Protesters in front of the White House, dressed in red with black hoods over their heads holding a sign that reads: "Free the Uighurs". Another protester to the right holds a sign that reads "Shut down Guantanamo"
Activists protest in front of the White House against Chinese treatment of the Uyghur population. | Photo: Daniel Lobo via flickr | CC BY 2.0

The Xinjiang Police Files and the Visit of the UN High Commissioner: Will This Open Up New Opportunities?

The treatment of the Uyghur population  by the CCP has been an ongoing concern for the last 5 years. Over this time information has leaked from government and security sources which indicates that grave human rights violations and potentially even crimes against humanity have been committed. The UN High Commissioner has recently visited China and the Xinjiang region and in this context the newest significant trove of information was released, showing once more the human rights abuses. Yet it is unlikely that any multilateral action will be taken, outside of diplomatic efforts. As there are few avenues to address these human rights violations in international law, the more diplomatic approach that can be seen in the visit of the High Commissioner should be supported.


Image shows the Second Peace Conference at The Hague in 1907.
The core of the law of neutrality was established in the Hague Convention of 1907 | Photo: CC BY 3.0

Assistance to Ukraine: Moving away from the neutrality paradigm

The Ukrainian government has requested other states to provide military material, which Germany and other states have acted on. Russia asserts that states making such deliveries are involving themselves in the conflict and would regard such deliveries as military targets and treat them accordingly. Targeting vessels carrying such deliveries is using force against the state sending these materials, which is not allowed unless a state becomes a party to the conflict. Consequently, it is important to determine when a state is no longer neutral and what the difference is between not being neutral and becoming a party to the conflict.


Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, briefs the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, briefs the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security. | Photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elías

Russian allegations of biological weapons activities in Ukraine

Russia has accused Ukraine of working on biological weapons, with the support of and the United States and Germany of providing support. These allegations are unfounded. There are no indications of such activities, which would be prohibited by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Germany, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States are BWC states parties. NATO and Western countries have voiced concerns that Russia may use these allegations as pretext to employ chemical weapons in the war against Ukraine.