Multilateral Approaches to the Investigation and
Attribution of Biological Weapons Use
JONATHAN B. TUCKER
Since the end of World War II, governments, journalists, and humanitarian organizations have accused various actors of employing biological or toxin weapons in violation of international law.1 Multilateral mechanisms for investigating such allegations can help to determine their validity and, if the incident proves to be real, assist with the process of identifying the agent, determining the detailed circumstances of the attack, and attributing it to a specific country or subnational group.
Although multilateral investigations may encounter many of the same obstacles faced by investigations carried out by individual states, the involvement of a diverse array of countries tends to generate greater international credibility and legitimacy than evidence based on national intelligence alone. For this reason, multilateral investigations provide a stronger basis for mobilizing political, economic, and even military sanctions against a perpetrator. Such investigations are also less likely to involve sensitive sources and methods of intelligence collection that cannot be shared with other countries.
To date, most multilateral investigations of alleged use have resulted in ambiguous or weakly stated findings because of a lack of timeliness, access, or cooperation by the host country. This chapter describes the various multilateral investigative mechanisms that currently exist and suggests how they might be