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PART 1
Weapons review

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As previously mentioned, one cardinal rule of IHL is that parties to an armed conflict are limited in their choice of weapons, means and methods of warfare. Relevant rules include the prohibition on using means and methods of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering and the prohibition on using means and methods that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian or civilian objects and military targets.

Nevertheless, one can imagine that it is not always obvious whether a new technology – which has never been used on a battlefield – will comply with such rules. While it is true that IHL has often developed in response to the atrocities committed in previous conflicts, the most efficient way to protect civilian populations is to prevent such atrocities before they occur in the first place. This is why Article 36 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions is essential to the effectiveness and compliance with other protective rules. Indeed, under IHL States have an obligation to determine the compatibility with international law of a new weapon, means or method of warfare in the “study, development, acquisition or adoption” phases. In order to ensure compliance with the provision, the ICRC works closely with many States on developing national weapon review mechanisms.

[...] while it is true that IHL has often developed in response to the atrocities committed in previous conflicts, the most efficient way to protect civilian populations is to prevent such atrocities before they occur in the first place.