The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) was the first multilateral treaty categorically banning a class of weapon. The treaty prohibits the development, stockpile, production, or transfer of biological agents and toxins of “types and quantities” that have no justification for protective or peaceful use. Furthermore, the treaty bans the development of weapons, equipment, or delivery systems to disseminate such agents or toxins. Should a state possess any agent, toxin, or delivery system for them, they have nine months from entry into force of the treaty to destroy their stockpiles, or divert them for peaceful use.

The convention stipulates that states shall cooperate bilaterally or multilaterally to solve compliance issues. States may also submit complaints to the UNSCR should they believe another state is violating the treaty. However, there is no implementation body of the BTWC, allowing for blatant violations as seen in the past. There is a review conference every five years to review the convention’s implementation, and establish confidence-building measures.

Treaty Obligations

States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BTWC) are obligated not to develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise acquire or obtain microbial or other biological agents or toxins of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes; not to develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise acquire or obtain weapons, equipment, or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict; to destroy, or to divert to peaceful purposes (not later than nine months after the entry into force of the convention) all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery; not to transfer to any recipient, and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce to manufacture or otherwise acquire any of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, or means of delivery; to take necessary measures to prohibit the above within their own territories. Although the BTWC (in its title and in Article I) does not explicitly prohibit “use” of biological weapons, the Final Declaration of the 1996 Treaty Review Conference reaffirmed that, although “use” is not explicitly prohibited under Article I of the BTWC, it is still considered to be a violation of the convention.