Weapons Law Encyclopedia

Started in December 2012

Armed violence, in both conflict and non-conflict settings, takes a severe human toll. The use of different technologies of violence – guns, bombs, mines, rockets or incendiary projectiles, to mention but a few – is associated with distinct patterns of harm. To alleviate the suffering of war victims and protect civilians from harm, some weapons have been outlawed.

The use of certain other weapons has been restricted by international treaties. Yet, most weapons commonly used by police or military forces are not specifically regulated. In the absence of a weapons treaty, there is insufficient consensus concerning which weapons violate the customary international humanitarian law rules prohibiting the use of indiscriminate weapons or weapons of a nature to cause superfluous injury. And what international human rights law, including standards on the use of force, implies for the legality of particular weapons is, as yet, ill-understood.

A better understanding of the legal regulation of weapons under international law can contribute to a more faithful implementation of international legal obligations regarding weapons. It can also promote a more coherent approach to international weapons regulation, with a view to reducing the humanitarian impact of armed violence.

The Weapons Law Enyclopedia (WLE) is a pioneering online compilation of information, accessible to non-specialists, on weapon technologies, the humanitarian impacts of their use, and their regulation under public international law.

RESEARCHER

Picture of Maya Brehm

Maya Brehm

Researcher

Maya Brehm's research focuses on the regulation of weapons under international law.

Publications

Cover of the book Weapons under International Human Rights Law

Weapons under International Human Rights Law

July 2015

Stuart Casey-Maslen

Cambridge University Press

View More >

Cover of the Briefing No8: Autonomous Weapons Systems Under International Law

Briefing N°8: Autonomous Weapons Systems Under International Law

November 2014

Milena Costas Trascasas, Nathalie Weizmann

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Police intervention during a demonstration Project

Non-Kinetic-Energy Weapons

Completed in January 2009

Non-kinetic-energy (NKE) weapons inflict harm through the emission of different forms of radiation or sound, diffusion of chemical or biological agents or transmission of electricity, rather than the application of kinetic energy possessed by a fragment, bullet or other projectile.

Read more

A Royal Air Force Reaper RPAS (Remotely Piloted Air System) at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan Project

Armed Drones and Autonomous Weapon Systems under International Law

Completed in January 2011

This project aimed in particular to address the legal and ethical challenges these new technologies pose in relation to the regulation of the use of force.

Read more