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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 29, August - September 1998

Blinding Lasers Ban Enters Into Force

'Ban on blinding laser weapons now in force,' International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Press Release 98/31, 30 July 1998

"As of today, blinding laser weapons can be added to the list of weapons that are prohibited under international humanitarian law. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes this development, which confirms the obligation placed upon all States to refrain from using weapons deemed to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.

Protocol IV to the 1980 UN Convention on Conventional Weapons has now come into force, less than three years after its adoption. The Protocol bans the use and transfer of any laser weapon specifically designed to cause permanent blindness. This is the first time since 1868, when exploding bullets were prohibited, that a weapon has been outlawed before being deployed on the battlefield.

'This new norm is a tremendous achievement. Many soldiers and innocent civilians will be spared horrible suffering', said ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga.

To date, Protocol IV has been ratified by 27 States. The ICRC reiterates its call to all States that have not yet done so to adhere to the Protocol as soon as possible. At the same time, the ICRC reminds States of their obligation to review all new weapons in terms of their compatibility with the norms of international humanitarian law. 'The next millennium will present challenges similar to that of blinding laser weapons. New technologies for inflicting human injury are around the corner and the full range of their effects are unknown. International humanitarian law has an essential role to play in sparing humanity the worst consequences of its technical capabilities', added Mr Sommaruga.

The States that have notified the United Nations of their ratification of the Protocol are: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Uzbekistan."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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