The Oxford guide to international humanitarian law
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2020
Weapons are integral to the use of force but 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. It is not restricted to devices that cause harm by means of kinetic energy, such as a bullet fired from a gun, as damage to the body can also be effected by heat, sound, electricity, bacteria, poison, or electromagnetic energy. 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. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, IHL instruments prohibited the use of, among others, exploding bullets; asphyxiating or deleterious gases; expanding ‘dum-dum’ bullets; chemical and bacteriological methods of warfare; and modification of the environment; while two protocols adopted in 1980 under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) respectively restrict the use of landmines and incendiary weapons.