Green Cross International and the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations organized and hosted a special screening of the new film, “Winds of Chemical Warfare,” directed by award-winning film-maker Fabienne Lips-Dumas, at the United Nations in New York City on Monday, 19 October, 2015, during the 70th UN General Assembly.
The film (78 minutes) was produced by Seppia Media. It was broadcast in Belgium, France, and Germany in April 2015 in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the first major use of chemical weapons in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium in World War I. Green Cross has also organized screenings of the film in Berlin (in coordination with the Max Planck and Haber Institutes), in Geneva, and in Washington DC (in coordination with the Arms Control Association). The film will also be screened in The Hague on 3 December, 2015 as part of the 20th annual Conference of States Parties to the international Chemical Weapons Convention. In an abridged version (52 minutes), the film is entitled “Chemical Weapons: An Insidious War.”
“Winds of Chemical Warfare” documents the horrible and inhumane use of chemical warfare from the trenches of Ieper in World War I up to the present day in the Middle East. Ironically, the first major chemical attack in Ieper was by Germany with chlorine gas, a dual-use chemical, and the same chemical is being used now by unidentified warring parties in both Syria and Iraq. The film also documents the use of chemical agents by Saddam Hussein against Iran in the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, and again in 1988 against Kurdish civilians at Halabja in northern Iraq. It also covers the terrorist attack by the Aum Shinrikyo in the Tokyo subway in 1995.
The programme at the United Nations was introduced by Swedish Deputy Permanent Representative Per Thoresson, and was moderated by Swedish diplomat Jan Lodding. The panel included Dr. Ake Sellstrom, Head of the 2013 UN Investigation of Alleged Uses of Chemical Weapons in Syria; Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao, Deputy Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague; Dr. Paul Walker, Director, Security and Sustainability, Green Cross International; and Fabienne Lips-Dumas, the film director.
The panelists discussed the importance of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997 and now includes 192 States Parties – the most universal of any arms control and disarmament treaty today. Dr. Walker emphasized that four countries – Egypt, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan – must still be brought into the CWC to make it truly universal. He also emphasized the need to complete the safe destruction of four remaining chemical weapons stockpiles – 4,000 tonnes in Russia, 2,800 tonnes in the US, 17 tonnes remaining from the Syrian stockpile, and 730 tonnes of precursor chemicals in Libya. Walker also underlined that over 90 per cent of declared chemical weapons stockpiles in eight possessor countries have now been safely and irreversibly destroyed over the past 25 years – “a major step forward in building a world free of chemical weapons.”
In discussions of the current Mideast crises and use of chemical weapons, it was pointed out that the fourth Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) Report of the OPCW will be forthcoming shortly, and that the new United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), established by UN Security Council Resolution 2235, will soon be investigating allegations of chemical weapon use in Syria. The JIM director, Virginia Gamba of the United Nations, attended the event and commented that we must stop the apparent impunity with which chemical weapons are currently used in the Mideast. “Can a mechanism be developed,” Gamba asked, “to answer why, how, and by whom are chemical weapons being used in Syria?” The JIM will report back to the United Nations within 90 days after it begins full operations.