ICRC recommends curbing use of riot control chemicals

The International Committee of the Red Cross called on states on Wednesday to limit the use of toxic chemicals like tear gas for law enforcement exclusively to controlling riots.

The ICRC said that military forces and law enforcement agencies have spent years developing and using toxic chemicals as weapons for law enforcement. These anesthetic and sedative drugs are described as incapacitating chemical agents or incapacitating agents. The ICRC said that using such agents could present risks to life and health and undermine the prohibition of chemical weapons.

"It is time for states to take a clear stand against the development of other toxic chemicals for use as weapons, because any such development risks undermining international law prohibiting chemical weapons," Philip Spoerri, the ICRC's director for international law and cooperation, said. "We are asking them to put in place the requisite national legislation clearly limiting the use of toxic chemicals as weapons for law enforcement to riot control agents - also known as 'tear gas' - only."

The states parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention will meet for the third review conference between April 8 and April 19 in The Hague. The CWC prohibits the use of toxic chemicals as weapons and the use of riot control agents as a method of warfare.

"We believe that these risks far outweigh any perceived operational benefits," Spoerri said.