Journal article Open Access

Concept and Types of Weapons of Mass Destruction in International Law

Ye.A. Samoilenko, V. I. Golovanova

Recent changes in the field of WMD have a tremendous impact on rising tensions, not only at the regional level, but around the world. Unfortunately, the world history can show us several examples of the using of weapons of mass destruction. For example, in the First World War, 1914-1918, Germany used chlorine and mustard against Anglo-French troops; in the Rif War of 1921-1926 – Spain and ghost bombs against the Moroccan army, in World War 1939-1945 – the US atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc.

The article deals with the current topic on the concept and types of weapons of mass destruction. In international humanitarian law, weapons of mass destruction are considered in two dimensions – broad and narrow.

This is because the abstract concept, in a broad sense, covers certain types of weapons whose use are already prohibited or restricted by international law. Regarding weapons, according to the systemic analysis of international regulation and considering the nature of the weapons of mass destruction, three types are distinguished 1) weapon that make death inevitable; 2) weapon capable of causing excessive suffering; 3) weapon that have indiscriminate action. The first species was banned in 1898, and the second species has been duplicated several times in treaties. And as for the third species, there is no special rule which directly prohibits its application. It is formed as a conclusion from two provisions of international humanitarian law. An example of this type of weapon is “carpet bombing”. The question remains whether the general prohibition on the use of weapons causing excessive suffering should extend to weapon that are not prohibited but have the same characteristics as those prohibited? This type of weapon can be attributed, for example, fragmentation ammunition.

The narrow definition covers a list of specific weapons that already exist in the world and those that may exist in the future. It means nuclear (including radiological), chemical and bacteriological (biological) weapons, as well as any other types of weapon which may be created in future and possess destructive power comparable to specified types of weapons mentioned above.

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