The purpose of the Guidebook (now available in Arabic) is to provide police and civil prosecutors, and relevant investigative agencies, with guidance to support the successful prosecution of incidents involving the deliberate use of a chemical or biological agents. The Guidebook aims to provide awareness and insight into the current and emerging challenges related to the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.
Foreword by the Director of UNICRI Antonia Marie De Meo
The world we currently live in is complex and ever changing. Criminal entities are responding to evolving threat landscapes and advancing technology with ease, presenting a multitude of challenges to those who investigate and prosecute crime. Particularly challenging crimes involve the deliberate acquisition and use of hazardous chemical and biological agents to cause harm to humans, animals, the environment, or to disrupt our way of life.
Chemical and biological agents have often been used deliberately to harm human beings and the surrounding environment. For example, the world was shocked by the deliberate use of mustard gas on civilians in the town of Halabja in northern Iraq in the 1980s, repeated in Damascus some 25 years later; the deliberate dispersal of nerve agent Sarin in the Tokyo subway by the domestic cult group Aum Shinrikyo in 1995; and the deliberate distribution of letters containing biological anthrax spores sent to individuals in the United States in 2001. Between 2013 and 2017, we again experienced the deliberate use of chemical weapons on civilian targets in Iraq and Syria, impacting the civilian population, and in 2017, the deliberate use of toxic chemicals at the Kuala Lumpur international airport, followed one year later by the use of another chemical agent in the United Kingdom. These cases confirm the need to increase awareness and skills related to the investigation and prosecution of chemical and biological crimes.
Multi-agency coordination and cooperation is essential for the successful investigation and prosecution of these criminal cases. The chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) world is full of technical and scientific terminology, procedures, and regulations. Prosecution teams need an increased appreciation of the challenges and greater insight into the key considerations related to CBRN crimes.
UNICRI, in close cooperation with its international partners and stakeholders, has identified the need to advance guidance in this field. To this end, the Institute brought together international and regional subject matter experts with relevant experience in the CBRN domain as well as senior prosecutors and trial attorneys, to develop this first edition of the Prosecutors Guide to Chemical and Biological Crimes.
This Guide aims to provide police, prosecutors, and relevant investigative agencies with guidance to support the successful prosecution of incidents involving the deliberate acquisition, stockpiling, production, transfer, or use of a chemical or biological agent. It is a non-binding high-level guidance document with considerations across key elements associated with the deliberate use of chemical and biological agents and toxins and the impact of these elements on the prosecutorial process. This guidance builds foundational awareness from which additional phases, including practical training for prosecutors, can be developed and implemented.
We are thankful to the European Commission for funding the production of this Guide within the framework of the European Union Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Centres of Excellence Initiative (EU CBRN CoE). The request to produce such guidance came as a result of implementing two projects in Southeast and Eastern Europe aimed to enhance the CBRN forensic capabilities of its partner countries. We are committed to listening carefully to the needs and priorities of our Member States and addressing them through the development of sustainable programs, including the delivery of theoretical content, tailored training, educational videos, and e-learning platforms.
We are confident that this Guide will provide opportunities for strengthening the knowledge, systems, and frameworks from which we strive to support investigative agencies and prosecutorial teams in their quest for justice.