United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 86. Blinding Laser Weapons
Section B. Laser systems incidentally causing blindness
The Annotated Supplement to the US Naval Handbook (1997) states:
While blinding as an incidental effect of “legitimate military employment” of range finding or target acquisition lasers is not prohibited by [the 1995 Protocol IV to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons], parties thereto are obligated “to take all feasible precautions” to avoid such injuries.
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states:
Directed-energy devices, such as laser … are not proscribed by the law of armed conflict. Lasers may be employed as a rangefinder or for target acquisition, despite the possibility of incidental injury to enemy personnel. Laser “dazzlers” designed to temporarily disorient may also be employed.
In 1995, in a US Department of Defense policy statement on blinding lasers, the need for some restrictions, aside from the prohibition of deliberate blinding, was explained thus:
Laser systems are absolutely vital to our modern military. Among other things, they are currently used for detection, targeting, range-finding, communications and target destruction. They provide a critical technological edge to US forces and allow our forces to fight, win and survive on an increasingly lethal battlefield. In addition, lasers provide significant humanitarian benefits. They allow weapons systems to be increasingly discriminate, thereby reducing collateral damage to civilian lives and property. The Department of Defense recognizes that accidental or incidental eye injuries may occur on the battlefield as the result of the use of legitimate laser systems. Therefore we continue to strive, through training and doctrine, to minimize these injuries.