Harvard Sussex Program
on chemical and biological warfare armament and arms limitation


The 1925 Geneva Protocol


Text of the Convention
List of Signatory States and States Parties

The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, otherwise known as the Geneva Protocol, was adopted by the Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War convened in Geneva by the League of Nations. The Protocol was signed on 17 June 1925. It entered into force on 8 February 1928.

The Geneva Protocol prohibits "the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices", and it also bans "bacteriological methods of warfare". The Geneva Protocol, which is the first important multilateral agreement regarding chemical and biological weapons, is considered as a part of customary international law and therefore binds even states that are not parties to it.

However, the Geneva Protocol, implicitly, does not cover internal or civil conflicts and does not have provisions for a verification mechanism. Moreover, a sizeable fraction of its parties have reserved to themselves a right to retaliate in kind if chemical and/or biological weapons should ever be used against them by enemies or allies of enemies. This, and the contractual character of the Protocol, has rendered it a no-first-use agreement. In recent years, though, many of the reservations have been withdrawn.