Biological weapons


Background

Biological weapons transmit biological agents, i.e. bacteria, viruses or toxins. They use living organisms to spread diseases that can lead to death.

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), which entered into force in 1975, prohibits the production of biological and toxin weapons. The Convention does not have a verification regime, unlike the Chemical Weapons Convention. The fact that no country currently claims to have biological weapons is a confirmation of the broad normative force of this multilateral treaty.

 

Belgian policy

Belgium signed the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972 and ratified it in 1979. Our efforts mainly focus on the following objectives:

  • To support the development of international industry standards in the field of bio-safety and bio-security, in close cooperation with industry and relevant professional associations. In this way we try to prevent biological agents from falling into the wrong hands;
  • To advocate effective control of exports of dual-use goods (i.e. capable of both civil and military use) in the biological domain;
  • To promote international cooperation in the implementation of the Convention. To this end, the BENELUX countries organized a peer review, the results of which were shared with the other States parties;
  • To strengthen the international norm against biological weapons. Belgium succeeded in having an amendment to the Rome Statute (i.e. the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court) approved at the end of 2017, which categorizes  the use of biological weapons as a war crime. For more information, read this press release.