Gas Smalls Awful: U.N. Forces, Riot-Control Agents, and the Chemical Weapons Convention

This Article takes a comprehensive look at the use of riot-control agents (RCAs) by U.N. forces and the legal issues that arise as a result. This Article is the first to look at these legal issues from a practical perspective, not merely a theoretical one, because prior publications have questioned what would happen if U.N. forces used these weapons, whereas this Article analyzes forty instances of actual use. This Article is designed to spark debate within the areas of peacekeeping law, collective security law, the responsibility of international organizations, and arms control law relating to RCAs, and provides compelling legal and policy arguments for why U.N. forces should refrain from using them. This Article is particularly timely, given that some key states, such as the United States, recently have shown a willingness to reconsider their interpretation of disabling chemicals under the Chemical Weapons Convention and support the ICRC’s efforts in this realm. Moreover, as this Article was going to press, numerous news reports described how U.N. forces in Haiti heavily relied on RCAs in subduing victims of the January 12 earthquake who aggressively were demanding food from relief workers. These particular instances in Haiti are not included in the forty instances analyzed in Part II due to time constraints, although they are entirely relevant to this Article. With this overview in mind, the remainder of this Introduction sets out the thesis and the structure for defending that thesis throughout this Article.