Practice Relating to Rule 86. Blinding Laser Weapons

Protocol IV to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
Articles 2 and 3 of the 1995 Protocol IV to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons provide:
In the employment of laser systems, the High Contracting Parties shall take all feasible precautions to avoid the incidence of permanent blindness to unenhanced vision. Such precautions shall include training of their armed forces and other practical measures.
Blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems, including laser systems used against optical equipment, is not covered by the prohibition of this Protocol. 
Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, Vienna, 13 October 1995, Articles 2 and 3.
No data.
Australia
Australia’s LOAC Manual (2006) states:
Under the 1995 Protocol IV of the CCW [1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons] (CCW P. IV), laser weapons are prohibited from use where they are specifically designed to cause permanent blindness. While CCW P. IV does not prohibit use of lasers for other purposes, precautions must be taken when using laser systems for other purposes in order to avoid causing permanent blindness. 
Australia, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Australian Defence Doctrine Publication 06.4, Australian Defence Headquarters, 11 May 2006, § 4.12.
The LOAC Manual (2006) replaces both the Defence Force Manual (1994) and the Commanders’ Guide (1994).
Cameroon
Cameroon’s Instructor’s Manual (2006) states: “Article 3 [of the 1980 Protocol IV to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons] permits the use of lasers on the battlefield if blinding occurs incidentally or as a collateral effect.” 
Cameroon, Droit des conflits armés et droit international humanitaire, Manuel de l’instructeur en vigueur dans les forces de défense, Ministère de la Défense, Présidence de la République, Etat-major des Armées, 2006, p. 271, § 631.
Canada
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999) states:
Blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems is not covered by the prohibition [on blinding laser weapons]. For example, the legitimate use of a laser targeting system in a tank is lawful even if one of its collateral effects may be to cause blindness. However, such a laser targeting system could not be deliberately used to blind enemy combatants. 
Canada, The Law of Armed Conflict at the Operational and Tactical Level, Office of the Judge Advocate General, 1999, p. 5-3, § 30.
Canada
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states in its chapter entitled “Restrictions on the use of weapons”:
Blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems is not covered by the prohibition [on blinding laser weapons]. For example, the legitimate use of a laser targeting system in a tank is lawful even if one of its collateral effects may be to cause blindness. However, such a laser targeting system could not be deliberately used to blind enemy combatants. 
Canada, The Law of Armed Conflict at the Operational and Tactical Levels, Office of the Judge Advocate General, 13 August 2001, § 519.3.
Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book IV (Instruction of heads of division and company commanders):
II.1.10. Laser weapons
Laser weapons which are designed, as their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness or to diminish vision (i.e. to the naked eye or to the eye with corrective eyesight devices) are prohibited.
Blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems is not covered by this prohibition. Thus, the legitimate use of a laser targeting system in a tank is lawful, even if one of its collateral effects can be that it leads to blindness. However, this laser targeting system should not be deliberately used to blind enemy combatants. 
Côte d’Ivoire, Droit de la guerre, Manuel d’instruction, Livre IV: Instruction du chef de section et du commandant de compagnie, Manuel de l’élève, Ministère de la Défense, Forces Armées Nationales, November 2007, p. 54.
Israel
Israel’s Manual on the Laws of War (1998) states:
In the employment of arms applying laser technology for purposes other than causing blindness (i.e. for ranging purposes), it is incumbent on the states to take all precautionary measures to prevent unintentional blinding. 
Israel, Laws of War in the Battlefield, Manual, Military Advocate General Headquarters, Military School, 1998, p. 17.
Netherlands
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
It is prohibited to use laser weapons specially designed to cause permanent blindness. This means that lasers intended to blind personnel temporarily, known as dazzle lasers, are permitted. Guidance mechanisms such as target designation or ranging lasers are not prohibited, nor are directed-energy lasers, say, to disable. 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, § 0471.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states:
6.15. “It is prohibited to employ laser weapons specifically designed, as their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision”. These weapons must not be transferred to other states or non-State entities.
6.15.1. Other laser systems may be employed against military objectives, for example, against military optical equipment even though this may cause incidental effects, including blindness, to the users of that equipment.
6.15.2. “In the employment of laser systems, … all feasible precautions” must be taken “to avoid the incidence of permanent blindness to unenhanced vision.” 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, §§ 6.15–6.15.2.
United States of America
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. 
United States, Annotated Supplement to the Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations, prepared by the Oceans Law and Policy Department, Center for Naval Warfare Studies, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, November 1997, § 9.8, footnote 45.
United States of America
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. 
United States, The Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations, NWP 1-14M/MCWP 5-12.1/COMDTPUB P5800.7, issued by the Department of the Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Headquarters, US Marine Corps, and Department of Homeland Security, US Coast Guard, July 2007, § 9.8.
Uruguay
Uruguay’s Law on Cooperation with the ICC (2006) states:
26.2. Persons and objects affected by the war crimes set out in the present provision are persons and objects which international law protects in international or internal armed conflict.
26.3. The following are war crimes:
46. Using laser weapons that may cause permanent blindness. 
Uruguay, Law on Cooperation with the ICC, 2006, Article 26.2 and 26.3.46.
No data.
Australia
In 1997, in its response to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, the Australian Government stated:
Efforts are under way to increase the safety of these [laser] systems. For example, the Defence Department’s Defence Science and Technology Organization has a program aimed at making laser range-finders safer through the development and use of lasers which can be operated in the eye-safe region of the electromagnetic spectrum. 
Australia, Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Restrictions on the Use of Blinding Laser Weapons and Landmines, Government Response, Canberra, August 1997.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
In 1998, in a letter to the ICRC President, the UK Secretary of Defence stated: “The capabilities of weapons systems under development which employ lasers, and the concepts of operation for their use, are already consistent with the [1995 Protocol IV to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons].” 
United Kingdom, Letter from the Secretary of Defence to the ICRC President, 23 March 1998.
United States of America
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. 
United States, Defenselink News Release, Reference Number: 482-95, 1 September 1995.
No data.
No data.
First Review Conference of States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
The Final Declaration of the First Review Conference of States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in 1996 stated:
Welcoming the adoption of Protocol IV on Blinding Laser Weapons as a codification and progressive development of the rules of international law …
The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare:
Their conviction of the importance of the earliest possible entry into force of Protocol IV,
Their desire that all States, pending the entry into force, respect and ensure respect of the substantive provisions of Protocol IV to the fullest extent possible,
Their wish to keep the issue of the blinding effects related to the use of laser systems under consideration. 
First Review Conference of States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (Second Session), Final Declaration, UN Doc. CCW/CONF.I/16, 22 April–3 May 1996, §§ 14 and 17–19.
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Human Rights Watch
In 1995, in its report on blinding laser weapons, Human Rights Watch stated:
Laser target designators and range finders are of great military utility and may reduce the number of casualties or ensure more precise attacks on military targets. Still, experts believe that because they can cause significant injury and permanent blindness, combatants remain under a legal obligation to weigh the human consequences of even these instruments. Perhaps the most important consideration is to ensure that laser range finders and target designators are not abused and used intentionally against the eyesight of individuals and outside their missions. Government officials have expressed the fear that personnel using such lasers might be charged with war crimes if an individual is blinded. However, soldiers and their commanders always are required to know the legitimate and illegitimate, unacceptable uses of weapons. 
Human Rights Watch, Blinding Laser Weapons: the Need to Ban a Cruel and Inhumane Weapon, September 1995, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 37.