Threat of Non-Lethal Chemical Weapons

Dangerous Ambiguities:Regulation of Riot Control Agents and Incapacitants under the Chemical Weapons Convention

In this report, Michael Crowley discusses some of the threats posed by non-lethal riot control and incapacitants chemical agents.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) created regulations for all chemical weapons. Non-lethal chemical agents, such as riot control agents and incapacitants are regulated by the CWC, but not banned from use. Crowley claims that the vague wording in the CWC of what constitutes a non-lethal chemical agent sets no firm limit on how far chemical agent programs can “legally” progress. This creates the risk that chemical agents could be produced under the CWC that are non-lethal in some situations but lethal in others .

According to Crowley, non-lethal chemical agent research is growing around the world, which means the potential for misuse of these agents is also increasing. This could roll-back much of the progress made by the CWC in banning harmful agents. It could also provide both State and non-State actors better access to chemical weapons that could be used to harm or kill large numbers of civilians.



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