There was a time when the threat of chemical weapons was thought to be a concern of only for Western and Middle East countries, and other far-away places. Not anymore. Rwanda’s Parliament is moving to pre-empt a potential threat to the country.
A chemical weapon is a device that uses chemicals formulated to inflict death or harm to human beings. They are currently classified as weapons of mass destruction, and generally condemned by the civilised world.
This week, the Chamber of Deputies’ Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security is scheduled to scrutinise a draft law on the implementation of the convention on the prohibition of development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and their destruction.
The bill was initially up for discussion today, according to a draft programme, but it has since been pushed to a later date, this week.
The bill defines chemical weapons to include “toxic chemicals or their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under the convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes.”
“It will not be discussed tomorrow [Monday] as the programme changed but it will certainly be examined sometime this week. You will get to know more details later,” Gideon Kayinamura, the Chairperson of the committee, told The New Times yesterday.
Numerous international agreements are in force with regard to chemical weapons.
The bill was set up with the aid of a model by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental organisation, based in The Hague, The Netherlands, which promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention to prohibit the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction.
According to the OPCW, a common conception of a chemical weapon comprises a toxic chemical contained in a delivery system such as a bomb or artillery shell.
“While technically correct, a definition based on this conception would only cover a small portion of the range of things the CWC prohibits as “chemical weapons” says the OPCW.
Why is the bill relevant?
The law will allow Rwanda to appropriately put into practice what is required in other pertinent international treaties it has ratified. Rwanda ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty in 2003 as well as the African Weapons Free Zone treaty in 2004, among others.
An explanatory note seen by The New Times says the war against chemical weapons is a concern of the whole world since terrorist groups might plan terror acts by all means possible, including use of chemical weapons.
It was noted that as industrial activity, agricultural advancements, in addition to medical and research activities advance in the country, it was necessary that there be a law that prohibits chemical weapons.
When passed, the law will allow competent authorities to request other states’ authorities and international organisations to provide relevant data or information.
“The competent authorities of Rwanda for crime prevention, criminal proceedings, and implementation of the convention may collaborate with other competent state authorities and international organisations and entities, and coordinate their actions to the extent required by the implementation of this law or of the equivalent foreign statute subject to the other state,” reads part of the bill.
Chemical warfare involves the use of toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. It does not depend upon explosive force but on the unique properties of the chemical agent weaponised.
Chemical weapons usually include mustard gas, sarin and other deadly nerve agents.