Establishing national mechanisms to review the legality of new weapons is especially relevant and urgent in view of emerging new weapons technologies. This article asserts the need for a international mechanism to review newly invented weapons that are wrongly termed as non- lethal.
Henry Dunant in his famous book ‘A Memory of Solferino’ wrote “Ensuring the legality of new weapons is crucial if the development, proliferation and use of cruel and indiscriminate weapons are to be prevented and if humanity is to be protected from new and frightful weapons of destruction.’’
Non-lethal weapons are characterized by some scholars as “weapons of mass protection” that constitute a “new arsenal for a new era of warfare.” The most frequently mentioned reason behind the development of the “non-lethal” weapons concept is the changing nature of military operations in the post-Cold War world in what are called “military operations other than war.” In addition, ethnic hatred and ineffective or non-existent governments have fueled the ferocious fires of civil war in many parts of the developing world, deepening the crisis for ethical and legal restraints on war. NLWs are not required to have a zero probability of producing fatalities or permanent injuries. Moreover, the term “non-lethal” suggests that the weapons in question are anti-personnel weapons only. The area of “non-lethal” weapons covers, however, more than anti-personnel weapons. It includes weapons designed for use against “anti-materiel” weapons. Medically, the intended and unintended health consequences of “non-lethal” weapons are not yet well understood. NLWs cause debilitating or permanent effects such as blindness or paralysis, long-term lethal consequences, or other unnecessary suffering. So, the labels “lethal” and “nonlethal” do not accurately reflect how weapons ought to be examined from an ethical perspective.