Geneva Protocol 1925



The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, usually called the Geneva Protocol, is a treaty prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons. It was signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and was entered into force on February 8, 1928. The Geneva Protocol followed Germany's ban on the use of Chemical Weapons under the Treaty of Versailles.


In the 19th century Great Britain used chemical weapons at war and others planned to use it. In the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 the use of dangerous chemical agents were outlawed. In spite of this, Chemical Warfare was done in large scale in the First World War. Already in 1914 France used teargas. The first large scale application was by the German Empire in Ypres, Kingdom of Belgium in 1915, when chlorine gas was released as a defensive measure at a British lead attack leaving lots of wounded and a few killed. After the introduction, most warfaring countries engaged in a chemical arms race, including Great Britain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, USA and Italy. It resulted in a vast range of horrific chemicals affecting lungs, skin, or eyes, and some were intended to be lethal on the battle field, like hydrogen cyanide, and efficient methods of deploying agents were invented. At least 124 000 tons was produced during the war. In 1918 about one grenade out of three was filled with dangerous chemical agents. As protective equipment developed, also the technology to destroy such equipment became a part of the race of armament. About 1% of the fatalities and 4% of woundings of the Great War can be attributed to the use of gas, but the terror inflicted on the soldiers was an even bigger effect.


The Treaty of Versailles included some provisions that banned Germany from either manufacturing or importing chemical weapons. Similar treaties banned the First Austrian Republic, the Kingdom of Bulgaria, and the Kingdom of Hungary from chemical weapons, all belonging to the losing side, the Central powers. Russian bolsheviks and Britain continued the use of chemical weapons in the Russian Civil War and the Britons probably in the Middle East 1920.

Three years after World War I, the Allies wanted to reaffirm the Treaty of Versailles, and the United States introduced the Treaty of Washington. The United States Senate gave consent for ratification but it failed to enter into force. The French Third Republic objected to the submarine provisions of the treaty and thus the treaty failed.

At the 1925 Geneva Conference for the Supervision of the International Traffic in Arms the French suggested a protocol for non-use of poisonous gases. The Second Polish Republic suggested the addition of bacteriological weapons. It was signed on 17 June.


Several countries have deployed or prepared chemical weapons in spite of the treaty. Spain and France in the Rif War before it came into effect 1928. Italy against Abyssinia 1935 (mustard gas), Japan against China 1938-41, USA against Vietnam 1965-70 (Agent Orange, although not intended against humans), Iraq against Iran and Kurds 1980-88 (Mustard Gas, Sarin, VX etc.).

In the Second World War both USA, Great Britain and Germany prepared the resources to deploy chemical weapons, stockpiling tons of it, but refrained from it due to the balance of terror, the probability of horrific retaliation. Great Britain collaborated with USA in the development of the weapons. Soviet Union kept their development secret but they did have the facilities to produce chemical weapons. After the war thousands of tons of shells and containers with tabun and sarin and other chemical weapons were disposed of at sea by the allies.

State parties

To become party to the Protocol, state parties must deposit an instrument with the government of France (the depository power). Thirty-eight states originally signed the Protocol. France was the first signatory to ratify the treaty, on 10 May 1926. El Salvador, the final signatory to ratify the treaty did so on February 26 2008. As of November 2010, 137 states have ratified, acceded to, or succeeded to the treaty.