1. Initiating an on-site inspection
An on-site inspection is initiated by a request from a State Party. Each State Party has the right to request such an inspection in the case of a suspicious event. This request can be lodged independently from a consultation and clarification process. Requests for on-site inspections are presented to the Executive Council and, at the same time, to the Director-General of the Technical Secretariat of the CTBTO.
Each State Party has the right to request an on-site inspection in the case of a suspicious event.
A request for an on-site inspection must be based on information about the suspicious event that triggered the request. This information can be drawn from data gathered by the International Monitoring System (IMS) but also from data generated by national technical means of verification.
Whatever the source, a request has to contain detailed information about the event, including estimated time and location, the probable environment of the event (i.e., whether it has taken place underground, underwater or in the atmosphere) and, of course, which State Party or State Parties would be inspected.
An on-site inspection request must contain detailed information about the suspicious event that triggered the request. It must also include the results of a consultation and clarification process or an explanation as to why such a process has not taken place.
The State requesting the on-site inspection can send a representative to observe it. Information about this observer is also a required part of the request.
A request must also include the results of a consultation and clarification process if one has been carried out or an explanation as to why such a process has not taken place.
2. Preparing an on-site inspection
The process that is set in motion by an on-site inspection request is marked by speed. The aim is to field an on-site inspection quickly after a suspected nuclear explosion. The Director-General has only two hours to acknowledge receipt of the request and six hours to communicate the request to the concerned State Party.
Deadlines for preparing an on-site inspection are tight, since an inspection needs to be launched quickly after a suspected nuclear explosion.
In order to clarify the concern raised in the on-site inspection request, the Director-General seeks clarification from the State Party that is the subject of the inspection request. Again, speed is of the essence. The State Party has to give an explanation within 72 hours. The Director-General then sends the State Party’s explanation, along with relevant information on the suspicious event generated by the IMS, to the Executive Council.
Based on the information available, the State Party that has requested the on-site inspection may uphold or withdraw its request. If the request is upheld, the Executive Council is obliged to approve an inspection within 96 hours. At least 30 of the total 51 members of the Executive Council need to support the request for it to be approved. The Council is also responsible for subsequent decisions on the execution, duration and termination of the inspection.
The State Party requesting the on-site inspection and the State Party sought to be inspected may participate in the deliberations of the Executive Council. They are not allowed to take part in the voting.
At least 30 of the total 51 members of the Executive Council need to support the request for it to be approved.
Once the Executive Council approves an on-site inspection, it must be conducted without delay by an inspection team designated by the Director-General. The Director-General issues an inspection mandate outlining all details of the planned inspection, including the decision of the Executive Council on the request, the name of the State Party or States Parties to be inspected, the location and boundaries of the inspection area, the envisaged activities and the equipment to be used. The mandate also contains information on the team’s travel route, such as the point of entry, as well as any transit or basing points. Finally, the mandate spells out the names of the head of the team, its members and the proposed observer. The size of the team is also limited and should not include more than 40 persons.
3. Going to the field: Implementing an on-site inspection
The effort of striking a balance between an effective and thorough on-site inspection and a State’s right to protect its national security interests is found again in the provisions regulating the conduct of an on-site inspection.
Under the Treaty, a State Party to be subjected to an on-site inspection is obliged to accept it, but does not have to accept simultaneous inspections on its territory. The inspected State Party must undertake every reasonable effort to enable the inspection team to fulfill its mandate. The State Party thus demonstrates its compliance with the Treaty. At the same time, the inspected State Party has the right to take all measures it deems necessary to protect its national security interests and constitutional obligations.
A State Party subjected to an on-site inspection is obliged to accept it and must undertake every reasonable effort to enable the inspection team to fulfill its mandate.
The inspected State Party is obliged to enable the inspection team to have full access to the inspection area. Timeframes prescribed by the Treaty and its Protocol need to be respected. Applying a Treaty-based mechanism called “managed access”, the inspected State Party has the right to restrict access to some parts of the inspection area. This measure allows the State Party to protect its national security interests and to prevent the disclosure of confidential information unrelated to the purpose of the inspection. A restricted area cannot be larger than four km², and all restricted-access areas taken together can not exceed the total of 50 km². If the State Party restricts access to certain areas, it is obliged to provide alternatives for the inspection team to carry out its mandate.
The inspected State Party must allow the inspection team to have full access to the inspection area. Under the “managed access” regime, the State Party may restrict access to some parts of this area.
The inspection team has to conduct the on-site inspection in the least intrusive manner possible while striving to accomplish its mandate efficiently and effectively. Wherever possible, the team should begin with the least intrusive procedures and then proceed to more intrusive procedures when deemed necessary.
The Treaty lists activities the inspection team can carry out and techniques it can apply. These include: position finding, overflights, visual observation, video and still photography, multi-spectral imaging (including infrared measurements), gamma radiation monitoring, environmental sampling and analysis, passive seismological monitoring for aftershocks, resonance seismometry and active seismic surveys, magnetic and gravitational field mapping, ground penetrating radar, electrical conductivity measurements, and drilling.
The Protocol dedicates a whole chapter to the issue of overflights. The inspection team is allowed to perform one overflight to obtain a general orientation of the inspection area and to narrow down the area for further inspection activities. Any subsequent overflights are subject to the permission by the inspected State Party.
The inspection team should only use information and data that are necessary to meet the purpose of the on-site inspection. Interference with normal operations of the inspected State Party must be kept to a minimum. The inspection team has the right to collect environmental samples and remove them from the inspection area. Whenever possible, however, the team should analyse samples on-site. Provisions allow for off-site analysis in designated laboratories if necessary. Stringent procedures ensure the security, integrity and confidentiality of the samples throughout the analysis process.
An on-site inspection must be conducted in the least intrusive manner. The inspection team should begin with the least intrusive procedures and then proceed to more intrusive procedures when deemed necessary.
During the entire on-site inspection, the inspected State Party has the right to see and examine all evidence collected by the inspection team, to obtain copies of information and data, and to retain portions of all collected samples. The team has the right to modify the inspection plan, but it is obliged to take into account any recommendations by the inspected State Party.
Both the requesting State Party as well as the inspected State party may send their representatives to monitor the on-site inspection.
The State Party that requested the on-site inspection has the right to send a representative to observe this inspection, subject to the agreement of the inspected State Party. At the same time, the inspected State Party has the right to have its representative accompany the inspection team and observe all its activities.
Upon conclusion of the on-site inspection, the team reviews the preliminary findings, together with the inspected State Party. This is the time when ambiguities in the findings can still be clarified before the inspection report is drafted.
4. Reporting the findings
The inspection team has to submit a progress report on the on-site inspection no later than 25 days after the inspection has been approved. The consideration of this report by the Executive Council determines whether or not the inspection will be continued. Upon completion of the inspection, the Director-General will prepare a draft report.
An on-site inspection report contains all information relevant to inspection activities and the respective findings. It also gives an account of the cooperation granted by the inspected State Party and a description of the access given to the inspection team. The report allows for differing observations to be made by individual inspectors.
Upon completion of the inspection, a report will be prepared, containing all findings. It also gives an account of the cooperation granted by the inspected State Party.
The inspected State Party has the opportunity to review the draft report and give comments and explanations, for example on information that it considers unrelated to the purpose of the inspection. Changes proposed by the inspected State Party are incorporated in the report wherever appropriate.
The inspection report brings together all supporting evidence, such as analysis results of samples, monitoring data and assessments by the requesting and inspected State Parties. The Director-General of the CTBTO forwards the report to the Executive Council and to all States Parties, including requesting and inspected ones.
Based on the report, the Executive Council ultimately assesses whether non-compliance has occurred. In the case of a Treaty violation, the Council may recommend that the Conference takes necessary measures, including bringing the matter to the attention of the United Nations.
Based on the report, the Executive Council comes to a final assessment as to whether non-compliance with the Treaty has occurred. The Council also addresses the question of whether the right to request an on-site inspection has been abused.
If the Council comes to the conclusion that the inspected State Party has indeed violated the provisions of the Treaty, the Council may recommend that the Conference takes necessary measures to ensure compliance with the Treaty. The Conference and the Council both have the option to bring a case of Treaty violation to the attention of the United Nations, for instance the UN Security Council.
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