Call for OPCW to regulate domestic use of riot-control agents

Call for OPCW to regulate domestic use of riot-control agents

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Dear OPCW Representatives, 

We are a group of concerned citizens from all over the world. We are writing in appeal to you, to consider including control of riot-control agents into the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). OPCW has been the major international player in safeguarding the safety of humanity by eliminating the use of chemicals as weapons. Thanks to the effective effort of OPCW, the danger of chemical warfare between member states have been largely eliminated, and with it the OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013. 

While currently not prohibited under Article II of the CWC, uncontrolled, excessive use of riot-control agents such as CS (2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, the primary component of tear gas) in domestic conflicts exposes the citizens of OPCW member states to hazard of toxic chemicals comparable to warfare. This has become extremely apparent in the recent long lasting protests in Hong Kong. No population should be subjected to the harm of toxic chemicals.

Hong Kong has seen an unprecedented use of tear gas by the police for more than five months. Upwards of 9,000 tear gas canisters was deployed since June, and more than a thousand canisters of tear gas was fired in one night in a university campus. On Nov 13th, a reporter who frequently works on the protest front-line has been diagnosed with chloracne, probably as a result of prolonged exposure of halogenated aromatic compounds. The use of highly exothermic agent in CS canister from certain manufacturers was suspected to produce many long-lasting toxic by-products such as dioxin and cyanide. Moreover, the deployment of tear gas in metro stations and densely populated areas and absence of government-led decontamination efforts was criticized by a recent correspondence in The Lancet. Defense and security expert Dan Kaszeta wrote a commentary in in the journal Nature journal, raising concern on the lack of regulation or guidelines on how to properly employ riot-control agents such as tear gas, and reasoning that the OPCW has both the necessary infrastructure, the expertise, as well as the global reputation to carry out such regulatory effort. 

We think it is time for the OPCW to step up and start expanding its effort towards domestic use of riot-control agents, in order to achieve a world truly free of chemical weapons.

We urge you to raise the concern of uncontrolled use of riot-control agents (RCAs) at the OPCW meeting, in particular:

1) to propose an amendment to the Chemical Weapons Convention to include regulations on domestic use of RCAs in member states
2) to devise guidelines on the domestic use of such agents, e.g. 
      a) Strategy for decontamination after deployment;
      b)Unsuitable situations to deploy RCAs, such as deploying tear gas while indoors or in dense urban areas, and using RCAs when targets were already under restrain;
      c)Unsuitable formulation and method of deployment, such as CS in combination with highly exothermic agents that may lead to the formation of dioxin and other long-lasting toxic by-product;
      d)Reasonable maximum amount of deployment in a given area and time frame
3) to use Hong Kong as a case study to investigate the consequence of large scale use of CS, in terms of 
      a) Spread, dispersion and decomposition of chemical residue
      b) Long-term health effect
      c) Toxic by-products created by certain formulation of CS canisters.

Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Concerned citizens