Sunday, November 03, 2002

The always-worth-reading Mark Kleiman wonders whether the gassing of the Moscow theater violated international law. I was sure that I recalled-- from the bad old days of Waco-- that the international law governing chemical weapons explicitly allowed for its use in domestic law enforcement. I recalled correctly. The Chemical Wespons Convention reads in relevant part:

Article I Section 5: 5. Each State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.
Article II Section 7: 7. "Riot Control Agent" means: Any chemical not listed in a Schedule, which can produce rapidly in humans sensory irritation or disabling physical effects which disappear within a short time following termination of exposure.
[These two sections clearly allow for tear gas as a device of riot control, just not for warfare. More importantly, when the treaty bans "chemical weapons" it defnes these as]
Article II Section 1:1. "Chemical Weapons" means the following, together or separately:
(a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes
[And it does on to define the key phrase:]
Article II Section 9: 9. "Purposes Not Prohibited Under this Convention" means: [...]
(d) Law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes.

I presume that the Iraqi-Kurdish case does not fall under this exception. Iraq gassed whole villages in the context of a war; the fact that they were Iraqi citizens doesn't make it "law enforcement."

[Also on Mark's page: a proposal for express-voting booths to alleviate the too-many-voters, too-few-new-machines crunch he foresees in Broward County. Undoubtedly this is a reasonable accommodation. But I doubt whether courts would permit it. It would pose genuine equal protection problems (unlike the bogus equal protection claims from an earlier Florida election). Those who are more literate, native speakers of one of the ballot's languages (I don't know how many languages the ballot is printed in, but inevitably it's fewer than the number of native languages of the voters) and those who are willing to vote a straight-party ticket would be significantly advantaged; they'd be much more likely to be able to vote. Of course, the status quo advantages those who have two hours to spare to vote. But I strongly suspect that courts would find rationing-by-queue to be tolerably impartial, or at least much preferable to rationing-by-straight-ticket-voting-or-literacy.]

No comments: