Geneva Protocol

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The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, usually called the Geneva Protocol, is a treaty prohibiting the first use of chemical and biological weapons. It was signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and entered into force on February 8, 1928. It was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on September 7, 1929.[1]

It prohibits the use of chemical weapons and biological weapons, but has nothing to say about production, storage or transfer. Later treaties did cover these aspects—the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention.

A number of countries submitted reservations when becoming parties to the Geneva Protocol, declaring that they only regarded the non-use obligations as applying to other parties and that these obligations would cease to apply if the prohibited weapons were used against them.



Chemical weapons were used by the German Empire in Ypres, Kingdom of Belgium in 1915, when chlorine gas was released. The Treaty of Versailles included some provisions that banned Germany from either manufacturing or importing chemical weapons. Similar treaties banned the First Austrian Republic, the Kingdom of Bulgaria, and the Kingdom of Hungary from chemical weapons.

Three years after World War I, the Allies wanted to reaffirm the Treaty of Versailles, and the United States introduced the Treaty of Washington. The United States Senate gave consent for ratification but it failed to enter into force. The French Third Republic objected to the submarine provisions of the treaty and thus the treaty failed.

At the 1925 Geneva Conference for the Supervision of the International Traffic in Arms the French suggested a protocol for non-use of poisonous gases. The Second Polish Republic suggested the addition of bacteriological weapons. It was signed on June 17.

State Parties

To become party to the Protocol, state parties must deposit an instrument with the government of France (the depository power). Thirty-eight states originally signed the Protocol. France was the first signatory to ratify the treaty, on 10 May 1926. El Salvador, the final signatory to ratify the treaty did so on 26 February 2008. As of November 2010, 137 states have ratified, acceded to, or succeeded to the treaty.[2]

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