Prabhakar Menon, Chairman, Executive Council, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Anil Wadhwa, Chief Spokesperson, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.
ANIL WADHWA, Chief Spokesperson, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:
The aims of the treaty are to make sure that chemical weapons and chemical weapons production
facility all over the world are destroyed in a specific time frame of ten years for all states
parties. At the same time it has set up a verification system which ensures that there is no
acquisition, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.
KEITH PORTER, Producer: This week on Common Ground: the end of chemical weapons.
PRABHAKAR MENON, Chairman, Executive Council, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons: This is really the first truly global, universal, non-discriminatory agreement in
which the entire international community has come together to ban the whole category of weapons
of mass destruction.
PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape
events. It’s produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Keith Porter.
The Chemical Weapons Convention was ratified by the United States last April, just days before
it became international law. The convention created the Organization for the Prohibition of
Chemical Weapons to enforce the treaty. Today we hear from two officials of this agency, known
as the OPCW. Prabhakar Menon is the Ambassador of India to the Netherlands. In The Hague he
has also taken on the job of Chairman of the OPCW’s Executive Council.
MENON: Once the international community had decided really that there was an entire
category of weapons that had to be eliminated and there was in fact a global agreement on the
subject in the form of the convention that prohibits chemical weapons, it was, then it became
necessary for the global community to get together to build the structures to implement the
convention. And in fact a lot of the work relating to the setting up of the structure, a lot
of work that went into great detail, was what was done before the convention actually came
into effect in April this year. As you know, it came into effect after sixty-five countries
had ratified it and a certain time gap between the last ratification and it’s actually coming
into force. So before it entered into force, the activities were really concentrated on
building up these structures, the methodology for the implementation of the convention. And
this has taken in fact, several years, both here in The Hague and earlier in Geneva. So this
was what was happening in fact before it entered into force.
PORTER: I know that for many of us we may think of chemical weapons as being something
relatively new and modern, but I did read that the first international agreement on chemical
weapons was signed here in The Hague almost a hundred years ago in 1899, banning, I believe it
was, banning projectiles filled with poison gas. Why The Hague? Why is The Hague chosen as the
spot where we will run this convention and this organization?
MENON: The sort of historical point that you mentioned about the earlier Hague
Convention, one of the original Hague conventions on the subject, I think it explains why The
Hague was chosen as the headquarters, because it has, I think, built up a reputation, in terms
of disarmament negotiations, in terms of peace activities in the international multilateral
sense. And I think there was a feeling amongst those who were negotiating the Chemical Weapons
Convention that here was a city and a country which had, as it were, corroborated or proven
it’s commitment to disarmament measures and therefore it was in fact a very logical claimant
to be the headquarters of this convention. And of course, as you say, the Chemical Weapons
Convention really, the whole question of such weaponry and the use of such weaponry goes back
many, many decades. The First World War is in fact, probably the most vivid example of the use
of chemical weapons, and the public outcry at during that time had also resulted in a tremendous
amount of work being done in this field. What has happened with the Chemical Weapons
Convention, which is now in force, is the experience of several decades has been brought
together into what is now really a global instrument to eliminate this category of weapons.
PORTER: And you have a new headquarters being built here in The Hague also.
MENON: Oh yes, yes. We are looking forward to that because at the moment, I think
everybody feels a little cramped in the temporary headquarters. The new building should also
eliminate that along with the weapons hopefully.
PORTER: Yes, hopefully. Was it an exciting day: April 29th when this was ratified?
WADHWA: It was actually. It was awaited for a long time. We thought it would come two
years before, but it didn’t, simply because we needed sixty-five ratifications and then we
needed a further period of six months after that for the treaty to go into effect.
PORTER: This is Anil Wadhwa, the Chief Spokesperson for the OPCW.
WADHWA: The earliest it could have happened was in January of 1995 because the treaty
was open for signature in January of 1993, but then it took two more years for countries to
actually complete the procedures and get to the number of sixty-five ratifications.
PORTER: And in between the time that the sixty-fifth country ratified it and the six
month period, a number of other countries came on board, including the United States.
WADHWA: That’s right. That is exactly right. In fact the United States’ ratification
came about on the twenty-fourth when the Senate passed it and soon after that it was deposited
just one day before the treaty actually went into effect.
PORTER: And what is our total now? How many countries are on board?
WADHWA: At the moment one hundred-sixty five signatures and ninety-one countries have
ratified the treaty.
PORTER: Yes. And you’re expecting more all the time? I mean is it…
WADHWA: Yes, it certainly, you know, an expectation that by the end of this year we
will have about twenty more countries at a minimum that have ratified.
PORTER: OK. And so now the OPCW exists officially as the organization charged with
what? What is the charge of the OPCW?
WADHWA: The OPCW has been set up to oversee the implementation of the treaty. The aims
of the treaty are to make sure that chemical weapons and chemical weapons production facilities
all over the world are destroyed in a specific time frame of ten years for all states parties.
At the same time it has set up a verification system which ensures that there is no acquisition,
production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. So these are the twin aims and that’s
what the OPCW is suppose to do.
PORTER: OK. With how big of a staff?
WADHWA: The staff is supposed to be 405 by the end of this year and the projected
figure for 1998 is 476.
PORTER: Now I know you have a Director General and you also have a Executive Council
which you’re a Chairman of. Explain the structure; what is it that makes the OPCW work within
that hierarchy and that structure?
MENON: Well, essentially there are three parts of, the sort of exercise of implementing
PORTER: Again, this is Ambassador Prabhakar Menon, Chairman of the OPCW’s Executive
MENON: One is what is known as the Technical Secretariat, which is the body that really
does the nitty-gritty. That is the one that looks at all the paper work that keeps the whole
process of implementation going, as it were, in terms of what the procedures are and how
things are to be done etc. The other body is the, what is known as the Conference of States
Parties, that is all the countries who are States Parties to the Convention. The Conference
meets periodically and takes important decisions on the implementation of the Convention. And
the third structure is what you mentioned, the Executive Council, which is in fact the executive
organ for the implementation of the Convention. So really, this kind of, I wouldn’t call it a
three-tiered structure, but they’re all sort of more or less parallel. And they all act in
unison or in parallel in implementing the convention.
PORTER: Who does the Director General answer to?
MENON: The Director General is, in a sense, he’s answerable to the States Parties.
Because what he does, whatever he does, comes under the scrutiny of the Conference or the
Executive Council. And his activities really, are in a sense, mandated by the states parties
PORTER: Among those inspectors, what kind of expertise is needed in your inspection as
MENON: They will really need to know what they are doing, in the sense, they will need
to know about the weapons themselves, because that is the primary mandate of the Convention.
They will need to know about the various kinds of chemicals which have, as the Convention
itself puts it, the possible risk of weapons capability. As you know, the Convention itself,
in terms of categorizing chemicals, divides them into roughly three schedules. And you know,
to put it very crudely the three schedules are: chemicals which have a very high risk of being
turned into weapons, or have that capability of being turned into weapons; the second is a
little lesser risk, but still high risk; and the third—the second is actually significant risk;
and the third is a risk. So you have really, a very high risk, significant risk, and a risk of
being weaponized. So the inspectors really will have to be very familiar with all these categories
of chemicals. And in fact, they undergo training in precisely this kind of an approach. To be
able to identify what could pose high risk and what is to be done about it, in terms of the
PORTER: With those inspectors then, first of all, how do we know that an inspection will
be needed? And then once we know that, what will they do once they arrive on the scene?
MENON: The Convention itself is, you know, has a clear mandate, in the sense that it
has to inspect, to begin with, weapons, that is those who possess these weapons—chemical
weapons—and as you know, we have two publicly declared states which are possessors of chemical
weapons, the United States and the Russian Federation. So, and of course, then you have the
chemicals which could pose a risk in terms of weaponization. The procedure itself is a fairly
straightforward one in the sense that all countries committed to the Convention have to
declare their chemical facilities. Weapons facilities as well as other facilities in terms
of the Convention. These declarations are then studied here in The Hague at the headquarters
and the sequence of inspections will then be worked out by The Hague. Depending on what has
been declared by the parties who have, who adhere to the Convention. In other words, the
moment we have information about the chemical facilities of a particular state the OPCW, or
the headquarters, as it were, is in a position to undertake inspections of these facilities.
The procedure for inspection, of course there are certain time lines which are laid out. We
have teams of inspectors who will go out. We have a system by which, you know, the inspectors
go to a particular facility. There is also a system of what is known as “pre-inspection teams,”
that is before an actual inspection takes place a team does go there and sort of reviews?? the
area, surveys the scene and then decides how exactly the formal inspection is going to take
place. And then the actual inspection takes place. The report is sent back. And so on and
so forth. So in other words the whole, the whole process of inspection: a fairly elaborate,
straightforward, not—I wouldn’t call it complicated—straightforward but elaborate system of
inspection has been mandated in the Convention itself.
PORTER: What happens if a country says no? If you propose an inspection and a country
says “No, you cannot go to that location?”
MENON: There are two aspects to that. You see, every country has the right, in terms
of its national interest, not to allow inspection of a particular facility. Supreme national
interest is, is almost enshrined in multilateral instruments, in multilateral treaties. That
is one category or one aspect of this issue. The other aspect is that if there is a refusal
by a particular country of an inspection in spite of its commitment to the Convention, then
the Convention itself has certain procedures by which it can address this particular kind of
problem. For example, a country sends in a declaration, gives the information about its
chemical facilities, and an inspection is asked for. And if a country refuses then the
Secretariat here can bring that to the notice of the organs of the Convention, as it were.
Rather it’s the Executive Council or the Conference of States Parties. And then it’s up to
them to decide what action to take next. In a sense it’s hypothetical because this has yet
to happen. But if it does happen then I think it will really be up to the States Parties
themselves to devise some way of addressing this kind of dilemma, this kind of stalemate, if
it comes to that.
PORTER: Once chemical weapons are identified or perhaps a chemical weapons facility is
identified, what will happen to it? What is the procedure for getting rid of it or making
sure that it can no longer produce weapons?
MENON: That again is part of the inspection and verification process, which is again
part of the, part of the Convention. That is, once it has been inspected the inspectors send
back a report. They will prepare a report on that particular facility. And the decision then
is, what exactly is to be done about it? Now, if it happens to be something that needs to be
destroyed that will automatically be the course of action to be taken. If it is something
that is permitted by the Convention, for example you have, I mentioned these schedules of
chemicals that is permitted by the Convention to be possessed by countries around the world.
Now if it happens to be these chemicals the inspection will just, will just show that, you
know, these things exist in such-and-such country. And that this is in the knowledge of the
PORTER: We’re talking in this edition of Common Ground with officials from the
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Their job is to carry out and enforce
the recently ratified Chemical Weapons Convention. Printed transcripts and audiocassettes of
this program are available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details. Common Ground
is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts
a wide range of programs meant to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.
ANIL WADHWA: Well, the Director General was appointed on 13th May by the first session
of the Conference of the States Parties. He comes from Brazil. His name is Jose Maurizio
Bostani??, and he’s a Brazilian diplomat who has had wide multilateral experience. He is
answerable to member states obviously. He’s been appointed for a term of four years and he
has a technical secretariat which we are all part of.
PORTER: Once again, this is Anil Wadhwa, the Chief Spokesperson for the OPCW.
WADHWA: The technical secretariat has been set up to service the OPCW and also consists
of an Inspectorate, which as I told you will, which will be composed of 211 personnel in the
beginning, six months after the Treaty enters into force. And then we have the Executive Council
which is composed of 41 member states. Each regional group has a certain number of seats on
the Executive Council. And the Executive Council is the day-to-day operational body which
will oversee the working of the OPCW. And till the end of this year it’s been mandated according
to the budget to meet for 68 days. So it will hold regular sessions almost every month from
now onwards to the end of December. And the third body is the Conference of the States Parties
which is supposed to meet annually. And in between these meetings the day-to-day progress
will be monitored by the Executive Council. So the Executive Council acts more or less like
a governing board of the ?? for example. And the Conference of States Parties takes important
decisions on the budget, the functioning of the organization, long-term programs and things of
PORTER: Much of the work of the OPCW is in fact confidential. It’s documents and things
that happen here that you don’t necessarily want the rest of the world to do. Is it a problem
that you have to operate in that, with that sort of confidentiality?
WADHWA: Well, we have a confidentiality annex in the Convention itself, which was
devised mainly to provide assurance to member states that their trade secrets in the chemical
industry will not be leaked out very easily. Which means that the staff who handle confidential
information have to be very careful, and we have strict procedures in place to handle confidential
information. We have also developed what is called an OPCW Confidentiality Policy, which was
developed by the Prepatory Commission over the past four years. And that is already in place
and so I think member states at the moment should be reasonably reassured that their
confidential information is in safe hands.
PORTER: Yes. I see. Now, let’s talk about inspections. How many people will you have
on staff that are actually, that will actually go out and conduct inspections?
WADHWA: We need a total of 140 inspectors at entry into force and another 71, which is
the projected figure, that means a total of 211, six months after the treaty enters into force.
However, this was based on the condition that a bilateral agreement on destruction and non-production
of chemical weapons between the United States and the Russian Federation would be in place.
This agreement was signed in 1990. Since it is not yet in place and because of the fact the
Russian Federation has not yet, a state which has ratified the treaty, there might be a
requirement of more inspectors in the future. Because under the bilateral agreement both the
United States and the Russian Federation were supposed to provide inspectors and personnel to
inspect each other’s sites. And the OPCW in that situation was meant to only oversee these
verification procedures. In the absence of that agreement, as I said, we’ll have to revise
this figure of total requirement of inspectors. So the figure will probably go up from 211
which you projected right now.
PORTER: Wow. And these inspectors, when they go out, what are they looking for? What
are they charged with finding?
WADHWA: There are two, three kinds of inspections in this treaty. First of all,
inspections which take place on a routine basis in the civilian chemical industry. And these
take place at declared chemical industry sites and other declared sites, which may be military
sites. And these inspections of course are, are after a notice is given to the inspected
state party. But there is reasonable notice of, between 24 to 48 hours. It could be as long
as 72 hours, depending on the time schedule of the inspectors and the inspection team. They
are supposed to make sure that there is no clandestine production of chemical weapons. That
there is no production which is outside the scope of declarations, which have been given to
the OPCW. The other kind of inspection are challenge inspections, which are really short-notice
inspections, which are triggered by one state party on the territory or under the jurisdiction
or control of another state party, through the OPCW. In these situations unless the Executive
Council, which will be called at short notice here in The Hague, stops it, the inspection,
with a three-quarter majority, this inspection goes ahead. And the inspection team in fact
has to be at the inspected state, inspected site within a period of 48 hours. And these are
really short time lines that we’re talking about. So there the notice is much less and the
response time for the inspected state party or site is also much less. And the second, the
third kind of inspections are investigations of alleged use of chemical weapons. Which have
happened many times in the past in history. But there’s been no mechanism to check and to
verify other than a mechanism which was set up under the U.N. Secretary General, who would
gather a series of experts from all over the world. And by the time they would get to the
site or the place it was too late in most cases. But now we have a ready mechanism under
this treaty. And so these teams would also be able to go out at very short notice to the
place where the allegation of use has occurred So we are talking about three kinds of
inspections in all.
PORTER: That sounds fascinating. The alleged use. Obviously, yeah, you would have to
be ready to go at a moment’s notice to gather a team and go find out whether or not they have
been used. I think we oftentimes forget that chemical weapons have in fact been used.
WADHWA: That’s right. Chemical weapons have been used in many wars which have taken
place around the world. And the most obvious instances are of course the two World Wars, the
Sino-Japanese War, and in the Yemen, in the ’50s, in the Iran-Iraq war, which is a more recent
example—the ’80s. And finally, what, what brought about this Convention, was the threat of
use in the Gulf War, if you remember.
PORTER: Other than the alleged use inspection, the other inspections you laid out,
obviously the United States would be open to inspections. We are a, we ratified the treaty
and we potentially have sites in the U.S. that may be of interest to inspectors, so inspections
may happen there. Is that correct?
WADHWA: That’s exactly correct. There are, there will be declared sites, both civilian
chemical industry sites as well as military sites, which will be declared in the United States
under this treaty. And they would be open to inspections.
PORTER: Now let’s talk about destruction of weapons. You have other teams who are
charged with destroying either weapons or facilities that could be used to make weapons?
WADHWA: Well, destruction on weapons is done under a separate procedure. And all
countries who possess chemical weapons or chemical weapons productions facilities, first of
all declare those under the relevant article. And I’m not talking here of old and abandoned
chemical weapons sites, because that’s a separate category, but talking just about chemical
weapons and production facilities. The OPCW and the state party then draw up a plan of action
which consists of an order of destruction, which means that a certain amount of chemical weapons
have to be destroyed by the end of certain years. And there are percentages laid down in the
Convention for that purpose. The OPCW, on its part, would then enter into an agreement which
would be a bilateral agreement with that state party which possesses chemical weapons, and
would send out inspection teams which would stay at that site for a lengthy period of time to
monitor the destruction. The primary responsibility of destruction. of course, rests with the
inspected state party. The OPCW would be reimbursed for the costs that it bears on being at
the site and monitoring the destruction, till it is satisfied that all the procedures are
working properly and it is according, being done according to the Convention. And for that
reason we would need to rotate batches of inspectors at these sites, and these would be laid
down in the bilateral agreements which we will enter into with countries that possess chemical
weapons. Same thing applies to chemical weapons production facilities.
In case of old and abandoned chemical weapons, and we have a case in point in, for example,
chemical weapons which were abandoned by the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War in China, the
OPCW would determine the usability of these old and abandoned chemical weapons. In case it is
determined that they are not usable any longer then the method of destruction becomes much
simpler. If they are usable then of course it has to be consistently monitored as is done
with chemical weapons, which is a lengthy process on the terms of chemical weapons itself.
So we are talking of two categories of weapons here.
PORTER: This Chemical Weapons Convention, in your opinion, how does it measure up or
how does it compare with other major disarmament treaties? How does it compare, what are the
major differences between it say, and the treaties that banned nuclear weapons or other classes?
MENON: Well here I think I brought both my hats on at the same time. As Chairman of
the Council as Representative of India.
PORTER: Again, this is the Ambassador Prabhakar Menon, Chairman of the OPCW’s
MENON: There is something that is really very significant about this particular
Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention. And this is really the first truly global,
universal, non-discriminatory agreement in which the entire international community has
come together to ban the whole category of weapons of mass destruction. And it’s very
important to note this universality and this non-discriminatory aspect. And that is what
I think sets it apart from all the other disarmament treaties. And that is what gives
it the kind of acceptance and commitment which it has managed to get here in The Hague.
And to that extent, or by that token, it also should have a bright future.
PORTER: That is the Chairman of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons’ Executive Council, Ambassador Prabhakar Menon. Our other guest was the Chief
Spokesperson for the OPCW, Anil Wadhwa. For Common Ground, I’m Keith Porter.
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