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The legality of using white phosphorus

  • Published
    26th Oct, 2023

Context:

Accusations against Israel for using white phosphorus in conflicts highlight ethical, environmental concerns, emphasizing the need for strengthened legal frameworks.

Use of White Phosphorus in Conflicts

  • Accusation against Israel: Human Rights Watch alleges Israel's use of white phosphorus in Gaza, posing severe risks to civilians.
  • Historical Cases: Previous conflicts in Gaza saw Israel using white phosphorus, leading to international outrage and calls for investigations.
  • White Phosphorus Applications: While valuable in military operations, it raises ethical and environmental concerns due to its destructive potential.

Legal Framework and Humanitarian Considerations

  • International Humanitarian Law: White phosphorus use is governed by principles aiming to minimize harm to civilians and combatants.
  • Protocol III of the CCW: Deals specifically with incendiary weapons, allowing exceptions for munitions with unintended incendiary effects.
  • Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC): White phosphorus, not covered by the CWC when used as an incendiary weapon, falls under Protocol III regulations.

Strengthening Legal Framework

  • Need for Strengthening Protocol III: Protocol III requires enhancement to effectively regulate multi-purpose munitions, including those with white phosphorus.
  • Upholding International Law: Breaching legal principles can result in condemnation, investigations, and potential war crime prosecution.
  • Clarity for Enforcement: Strengthening Protocol III creates binding agreements, reducing ambiguity and making violations easier to identify.
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