The term refers to means of warfare generally employed in armed conflicts. The term distinguishes this class of weapons from weapons of mass destruction (i.e., nuclear, chemical and biological/bacteriological weapons). International humanitarian law bans or restricts certain conventional weapons to protect civilians from their indiscriminate effects and to spare combatants from suffering superfluous injuries that serve no military purpose. As a consequence, specific weapons are forbidden in all circumstances because of their characteristics (e.g. laser weapons), others are governed by restrictions in use (e.g. incendiary weapons) and others can be both prohibited and restricted in use, according to their type and the treaty obligations applicable (e.g. mines).  

See Weapons; MinesIncendiary weaponsLaser weaponsRemnants of war; Cluster munitions; Ammunition; Dum-dum bullets; Non-detectable fragments;



Conventional weapons in general



    CIHL, 80

    CIHL, 81

    CIHL, 82

    CIHL, 83

    CCW Protocol II          CCW Protocol II (amended, 1996)

    Ottawa Convention

Incendiary weapons

    CIHL, 84-85

    CCW Protocol III

Non-detectable fragments

    CIHL, 79

    CCW Protocol I

Blinding weapons

    CIHL, 86

    CCW Protocol IV

Explosive remnants

    CCW Protocol V




Suggested readings:

KALSHOVEN Frits, “The Conventional Weapons Convention: Underlying Legal Principles”, in IRRC, No. 279, 1990, pp. 510-520.   MATHEWS Robert J., “The 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons: A Useful Framework Despite Earlier Disappointments”, in IRRC, No. 844, December 2001, pp. 991-1012.   PARKS William H., “Conventional Weapons and Weapons Review”, in YIHL, Vol. 8 (2005), 2007, pp. 55-142.   SANDOZ Yves, “A New Step Forward in International Law: Prohibitions or Restriction on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons. United Nations Conference on Prohibition or Restrictions of Use of Certain Conventional Weapons”, in IRRC, No. 220, January 1981, pp. 3-18.   “Report of the ICRC for the Review Conference of the 1980 UN Conventions on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects”, in IRRC, No. 299, March-April 1994, pp. 123-182.   Further readings:   AUBERT Maurice, “The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Problem of Excessively Injurious or Indiscriminate Weapons”, in IRRC, No. 279, November-December 1990, pp. 477-497.   BRETTON Philippe, “La Convention du 10 avril 1981 sur l’interdiction ou la limitation de certaines armes classiques qui peuvent être considérées comme produisant des effets traumatiques excessifs ou comme frappant sans discrimination”, in AFDI, 1981, pp. 127-146.   COWLING M.G., “The Relationship between Military Necessity and the Principle of Superfluous Injury and Unnecessary Suffering in the Law of Armed Conflict”, in South African Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 25, 2000, pp. 131-160.   DÖRMANN Knut, “Conventional Disarmament: Nothing New on the Geneva Front?”, in GIEGERICH Thomas (ed.), A Wiser Century ?: Judicial Dispute Settlement, Disarmament and the Laws of War 100 Years After the econd Hague Peace Conference, Berlin, Duncker and Humblot, 2009, pp. 143-166.   PROKOSCH Eric, “The Swiss Draft Protocol on Small-Calibre Weapon Systems”, in IRRC, No. 307, July-August 1995, pp. 411-425.