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11 Weapons

Stuart Casey-Maslen

From: The Oxford Guide to International Humanitarian Law

Edited By: Ben Saul, Dapo Akande

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 16 July 2024

Armed conflict — Weapons, biological — Weapons, chemical — Weapons control — Weapons, conventional — Weapons of mass destruction — Weapons, nuclear

This chapter focuses on weapons, which are integral to the use of force. However, there is no accepted definition of what constitutes a weapon under international law. It seems clear, though, that the notion is broader than ‘arms’, which are factory-produced weapons, especially when destined for the military market. The notion of a weapon would thus encompass a dual-use item, such as a knife, and adapted devices such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or a ‘dirty bomb’, where radioactive material is associated with conventional explosives. The term could also be applied to the use of the internet in a cyber-attack wherein computer code is ‘weaponized’, for instance, in viruses or worms. International humanitarian law (IHL) has traditionally focused on prohibiting or restricting the use of weapons—whether under its Geneva law or Hague law branches—while disarmament law addressed their manufacture and supply. In the future, IHL will need to apply additional restrictions to specific means or methods of warfare. As of now, there are a number of challenging regulatory issues in the area of weapons law, including fully autonomous weapons, cyber weapons, and nuclear weapons, as well as the use of conventional weapons in space.

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