Biological and Chemical Weapons: Criminal Sanctions and Federal Regulations Page: 4 of 12
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Biological and Chemical Weapons: Criminal
Sanctions and Federal Regulations
This report reviews criminal sanctions attaching to the development, production,
possession, and use of biological and chemical weapons. It also addresses certain
federal regulations attaching to the development, production, and transportation of
biological agents. It does not cover rules and restrictions specifically focusing on
aviation or military facilities.
The United States has signed and ratified the Biological Weapons Convention
("BWC") and the Chemical Weapons Convention ("CWC"). Both the BWC and the
CWC oblige signatory states to implement domestic legislation. Article VII of the
BWC requires each signatory state to enact legislation or otherwise prohibit
violations of the Convention committed within its territorial jurisdiction or in areas
within its control.1 Prohibited acts include the development, production, stockpiling,
acquisition, and retention of biological weapons. Article VII of the CWC requires
state parties to enact penal legislation proscribing activities prohibited by the
See Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of
Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, Apr. 10, 1972,
26 U.S.T. 583, 1015 U.N.T.S. 163. See generally CRS Report RL31059, Biological
Weapons: A Primer.
2 See Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use
of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, Jan. 13, 1993, reprinted in 32 I.L.M. 800
(1993) (ratified by the United States on April 25, 1997). The Convention requires signatory
states to "prohibit natural and legal persons" within their jurisdiction from "undertaking any
activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention," and requires signatories to enact
penal legislation with respect to such activity. Id. at Art. VII, P1(a). Moreover, a state
obligates itself to "extend its penal legislation enacted under subparagraph (a) to any activity
prohibited to a State Party under this Convention undertaken anywhere by natural persons,
possessing its nationality, in conformity with international law." Id. at Art. VII, P 1(c). It
has been noted that this subparagraph requires that penal legislation conform to international
law, but does not require it to a signatory state's constitution. Ronald Rotunda, The
Chemical Weapons Convention: Political and Constitutional Issues, 15 CONST.
COMMENTARY 131, 159 n. 6 (2001). One observer has concluded that "it is not a defense,
under this subparagraph, that the United States refuses to enact penal legislation on the
grounds that it violates our Constitution." Id.
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Biological and Chemical Weapons: Criminal Sanctions and Federal Regulations, report, February 5, 2004; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc820887/m1/4/: accessed January 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.