Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law

Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law

Jus ad Bellum, Jus in Bello and Jus post Bellum

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Nigel White and Christian Henderson

This innovative Research Handbook brings together leading international law scholars from around the world to discuss and highlight the contemporary debate regarding issues of conflict prevention and the legality of resorting to the use of armed force through to those arising during an armed conflict and in the phase between conflict and peace.

Chapter 9: Weapons

Karen Hulme

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, public international law, terrorism and security law, politics and public policy, human rights, international politics, terrorism and security


Weapons have a clear strategic and security dimension; most patently epitomized by nuclear weapons and the Cold War strategy of ‘mutual assured destruction’ (hereinafter ‘MAD’). They also play a broader role in the lead-up to war; in arms races, military preparations for war and, of course, in the opening throes of battle. During armed conflict itself the laws attempt to humanize warfare and the instruments with which it can be fought, limiting the crueller and more barbaric forms of weaponry and those unable to distinguish between soldier and civilian. Yet, it is the continuing threat that weapons leave on the battlefield after the conflict that has drawn most attention in recent years. With the adoption of numerous instruments requiring the post-conflict removal of weapons and weapons debris, as well as the care of weapons-affected victims, a jus post bellum of weaponry already exists. In 1975 Richard Baxter wrote of the legal regulation of weaponry that it was ‘either pitched on a very high level of abstraction or was directed to specific weapons or projectiles of marginal military utility’. By comparison, said Baxter, were the ‘enormous technological developments that had taken place in the art of warfare’. Such views are arguably not sustainable today, as the most recent prohibition on cluster munitions demonstrates. Yet, as enormous technological developments continue apace, for example in the development and use of drones, will we be able to come to this same judgement in the near future?

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