UN Security Council resolution 1540

The UN Security Council resolution 1540 of 2004, which as international law is legally binding for Switzerland, sought against the background of the terror attacks of 2001 to require all states to impose effective legal and regulatory measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Resolution 1540 thus extended already existing treaties to non-state actors as well: Resolution 1540 explicitly obliges states to take decisive action against non-state actors as regards weapons of mass destruction.

UN Secretary-General’s mechanism

In the light of the first Gulf war between Iran and Iraq a resolution was passed in 1987 by the plenary that established the UN Secretary-General’s mechanism. This mechanism serves as a verification instrument of the Geneva Protocol for investigating alleged use of chemical and biological weapons (‘United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons’ - UNSGM). A list of experts and a list of laboratories are compiled for the UNSGM which can be provided by the UN member states. Switzerland regularly evaluates its nominations so that it is ready for an assignment on behalf of the UNSGM and thus able to offer its good offices – as for example the analytical laboratory tests relating to the UN mission in Syria of August 2013.

For their fact-finding mission in Syria the UN relies on the laboratory network of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The OPCW’s designated laboratories – including Spiez Laboratory - are internationally accredited and are subjected to stringent quality tests every year. Since the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force in 1997, these laboratories have validated their analytical procedures and precisely laid down the criteria for reporting the results. On the basis of these strict and undisputed quality controls, the results of the UN fact-finding mission in Syria were both politically and scientifically accepted without any restriction.

Contrary to the strict quality standards in the field of chemical weapons there are no corresponding controls in the biological field. In the case of a UN mission investigating the alleged use of biological weapons, lab analyses might therefore easily be questioned or even rejected. For this reason Spiez Laboratory seeks to remedy this deficiency. Such efforts are aimed at extending the quality assurance and reporting requirements of the Laboratories so that in the future UN fact-finding missions relating to biological weapons can also be both politically and scientifically accepted without any restriction.

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