Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Ben Saul
Chapter 6: Nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism in international law
The potential for terrorists to develop, acquire or use biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear weapons has constituted one of the most important security issues of the post-Cold War period. This threat includes the risk of terrorists obtaining these weapons of mass destruction (WMD) through independent means or from governments that support terrorist groups or fail to secure WMD materials. The confluence of WMD and terrorism began to affect policy seriously in the 1990s, and fears accelerated after the terrorist violence of 9/11 and subsequent anthrax attacks. Responses to these concerns have affected international law in many ways, including giving new purposes to non-proliferation agreements; generating new treaties; triggering the novel use of Security Council powers under the Charter of the United Nations (UN); sparking human rights concerns; applying international law on the use of force in controversial ways; and generating ‘soft law’. This chapter examines the evolution of international law relevant to WMD terrorism over the past two decades, with emphasis on the current state of the law, its problems and future challenges.
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