Journal article questions efficacy of legal deterrents to bio-weapons

The National Security Law Journal (NSLJ) in its most recent issue published an article by Eric Merriam, The International Legal Regime Affecting Bioterrorism Prevention, that detailed the impact and net results of current international practices regarding biological weapons.

In the article, Merriam said the framework of the international legal measures are "barely adequate" in declaring what is and is not prohibited. He said the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is not sufficient to effectively prevent and fight threats from biological attacks.

He said that with the addition of other anti-terrorism measures, such as U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540 — an agreement that said member states of the U.N. will not proliferate weapons of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) nature to non-member states -- a solid legal guideline has been established in regard to the development, acquisition, possession and deployment of such weapons.

Merriam said the threat of bioterrorism is increasing. The complexity and rapid nature of biological research creates a significant amount of gray area that nations could exploit. Merriam said there is a crucial need for a verification system that determines whether or not research and development in biological agents falls under the bio-weapons category.

On the legal infrastructure alone, it is impossible to prevent biological acts of terror. Merriam said existing political and practical situations take pressure off the purely legal side of international security measures.