Chemical and biological agents have often been used deliberately to harm human beings and the surrounding environment. In a complex and ever-changing world, criminal entities have adapted to evolving threat landscapes and make use of different hazardous materials to disrupt life. Gas mustard in northern Iraq in the 1980s, nerve agent sarin in the Tokyo subway in 1995, letters containing biological anthrax spores in the United States in 2001, or, more recently, the use of chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria (2013 – 2017), and of toxic chemicals at the Kuala Lumpur international airport (2017).
The numerous cases, to name a few, testify to the relevance of increasing awareness and the skills needed to investigate and prosecute chemical and biological crimes. At the core of the particularly complex CBRN crime sphere - full of technical and scientific terminology, procedures and regulations -, prosecution teams need an increased appreciation of the challenges and great insights into the key considerations of such crimes.
To this end, the European Union has supported within the framework of the EU CBRN CoE the production 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, transfers, or use of chemical or biological agents. Developed by UNICRI, in close cooperation with international organisations and stakeholders, the high-level guidebook addresses considerations across key elements associated with the deliberate use of chemical and biological agents and toxins, as well as the impact of these elements on the prosecutorial process.
A project rooted in the Centres of Excellence’s network
The ‘Prosecutors Guide to Chemical and Biological Crimes’ is an effort that came as a result of implementing two projects in the CoE partner region South East and Eastern Europe aimed to enhance the CBRN forensic capabilities across its countries. After completion of these in early 2020, it was suggested to consider the possibility of developing internationally endorsed guidance to strengthen CBRN forensics capabilities to respond to, and cope with, related incidents.
UNICRI brought together international and regional subject matter experts with relevant experience in the CBRN domain as well as senior prosecutors and trial attorneys, who worked for 9 months to develop the first edition of the ‘Prosecutors Guide to Chemical and Biological Crimes’. This guidance builds foundational awareness from which additional phases, including practical training for prosecutors, can be developed and implemented.
A three-volume series of CBRN forensics guidebooks
The ‘Prosecutors Guide to Chemical and Biological Crimes’ is the first in a series of CBRN forensics guidebooks aimed to advance guidance on policies, recommendations and best practices to enforce and build up forensics capabilities in the domain, where multi-agency coordination and cooperation is essential for the successful investigation and prosecution of criminal cases.
The second release in the series will be the ‘CBRN forensics Guidebook on Chemical and Biological Crime Scene Management’, in collaboration with INTERPOL. The series will be completed with the ‘Prosecutors Guidebook to Radiological Crimes’, with the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission’s science and knowledge service.
All three guidebooks will be unique tools to provide opportunities for strengthening the knowledge, systems, and frameworks from which the EU CBRN CoE and its partners strive to support counter-crime bodies and agencies in the shared quest for justice.
The ‘Prosecutor's Guide to Chemical and Biological Crimes’ is fully available for free consultation on the link below.
- CBRN areas
- Bio-safety/bio-securityInvestigation and prosecutionSafety and security
- CBRN categories