Practice Relating to Rule 72. Poison and Poisoned Weapons
South Africa’s LOAC Manual (1996) expressly prohibits the use of poison. It lists poison among “certain weapons … expressly prohibited by international agreement, treaty or custom”.
The manual further provides that “making use of poisoned … arms or ammunition”, as well as the “poisoning of wells or streams”, are grave breaches of the law of war and war crimes.
South Africa’s Revised Civic Education Manual (2004) states:
i. Prohibited Weapons. The following weapons have been prohibited:
(4) Poison or Poisonous Weapons.
The manual further provides that “making use of poisoned … arms or ammunition” and the “[p]oisoning of wells or streams” are grave breaches of the law of armed conflict and war crimes.
South Africa’s LOAC Teaching Manual (2008) states:
3. Means and Methods of Warfare
Several specific weapons are governed by specific treaties. These treaties establish two categories of weapons, to wit[:]
- Weapons of which the use is totally prohibited; and
- Weapons of which the use is permitted under certain conditions.
Weapons of which the Use is Totally Prohibited
- Poison or poisoned weapons. (Regulations to  Hague Convention IV article 23).
South Africa’s ICC Act (2002) reproduces the war crimes listed in the 1998 ICC Statute, including “employing poison or poisoned weapons” in international armed conflicts.
In its judgment in the Basson II case in 2005, the Constitutional Court of South Africa stated:
 … There can be no doubt that the use of instruments of state to murder captives long after resistance had ceased would in the 1980s, as before and after, have grossly transgressed even the most minimal standards of international humanitarian law.
 The same has to be said of the use of poison to bring about the death of opponents … Such means of warfare are abhorrent to humanity and forbidden by international law. The use of poison to eliminate opponents in armed conflict has long been prohibited.