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9 Poison, Poisoned Weapons, Asphyxiating Gases, Biological and Chemical Weapons

From: Weapons and the Law of Armed Conflict (2nd Edition)

William H. Boothby

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 29 January 2023

Armed conflict, international — Armed conflict, non-international — International criminal law, victims — Weapons, biological — Weapons, chemical — Weapons control — Weapons, conventional

Chapter 9 looks at a group of weapon technologies. The long-standing and customary prohibition of the use of poisons and of poisoned weapons is examined first. Then the discussion addresses efforts in 1899 to address the use of asphyxiating gases, pointing out that a prohibition on use was only achieved in 1925 with the adoption of the Geneva Protocol. While that protocol also addressed bacteriological methods of warfare, comprehensive arms control provision prohibiting all forms of biological weapon had to await the adoption in 1972 of the Biological Weapons Convention, whereas similar provision in relation to chemical weapons was not achieved until 1993. Both of these conventions are considered, and the status of the prohibition on use, and of related provisions, in both treaties is analysed. Novel technologies including incapacitating chemical agents, synthetic biology and the use of viruses are also considered.

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