Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, for whom France has issued an arrest warrant. | Foto: Wikimedia Commons | Lizenzinformation

The French Arrest Warrant for Assad – Breaking New Ground in the Prosecution of Chemical Weapons Use?

On November 14, 2023, a French Magistrate Judge issued an arrest warrant for Syria´s President, Bashar al-Assad. The Court found sufficient evidence to initiate proceedings against Assad for complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity, specifically the use of chemical weapons. Yet, as this blog post will point out, Heads of State enjoy certain immunities under international law, which the French arrest Warrant thereby violates. This warrant could, however provide a necessary impetus to re-evaluate how states view immunities.  

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Podium during the Fifth Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention.The Conference was held at the World Forum, The Hague, the Netherlands from 15 May to 19 May 2023.
Podium during the Fifth Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention.The Conference was held at the World Forum, The Hague, the Netherlands from 15 May to 19 May 2023. | Photo: OPCW via Flickr | © OPCW CC BY-ND 2.0

The Pursuit of Consensus. The Fifth Chemical Weapons Convention Review Conference

In May 2023, 193 state parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) convened for a five-day Fifth Review Conference in The Hague – a special session held once every five years that is crucial for advancing the Convention’s objectives. Despite the urgency of addressing substantive matters such as cases of chemical weapons use, for the second time in a row state parties failed to reach a consensus on the final document. Some argued that a longer conference duration might have altered this outcome. However, this Spotlight explains why, despite the high opportunity cost and regardless of the conference’s duration, a no-consensus outcome was inevitable due to current geopolitical tensions and an ongoing obstructionist policy targeting the CWC from within.

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International Criminal Court Building in The Hague
Es bleibt abzuwarten, wie die Mitgliedsstaaten mit dem Haftbefehl verfahren werden. | Photo: OSeveno via wikimedia commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Der Haftbefehl des Internationalen Strafgerichtshofs gegen Putin – Eine völkerrechtliche Einordnung

Am 17. März 2023 hat der Internationale Strafgerichtshof (IStGH) Haftbefehle gegen Vladimir Putin und eine Präsidialbeamtin erlassen. Diese Entscheidung hat große Teile der Fachwelt überrascht und wirft einige Fragen auf: Auf welcher Basis kann der IStGH Putin verfolgen? Was wird ihm und der Präsidialbeamtin vorgeworfen? Ist er als amtierender Präsident vor Verfolgung besonders geschützt? Welche Staaten sind verpflichtet, den Haftbefehl umzusetzen? Was sind die politischen Folgen für Putin, das Gericht und das Völkerrecht? Der Blogbeitrag geht auf diese Fragen vor allem aus völkerrechtlicher Sicht ein.

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Russian Ambassador sits at the Security Council, holding a printed page with images up in the air.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia speaks at Security Council meeting in New York, accusing Ukraine of developing biological weapons under the tutelage of the United States. | Photo: © picture alliance / Pacific Press | Lev Radin

Muddying the Waters: Official Russian Disinformation on Chemical and Biologial Weapons

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, chemical and biological weapons have once again attracted international attention due to disinformation efforts on the part of Russian officials. International forums which oversee the ban on these weapons are being used to accuse Ukraine and its allies of violating their legal obligations. Many of Russia’s accusations regarding chemical weapons resemble the patterns of deception observed in the past, while disinformation on biological weapons is displaying somewhat novel characteristics. Yet, there are tangible ways of counteracting such disinformation, thereby protecting the ban on chemical and biological weapons.

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