It may seem like “anything goes” during wartime, but the truth is, there are many internationally prohibited weapons that are so powerful, that we should refrain ourselves from using them. Here are the top 10 illegal weapons deemed so deadly that they’re prohibited by international agreements.
10. Blinding Laser Beams
Sometime in the mid-1990s, the US Air Force had funded research on how they can destroy eyesight at long distances using high-powered lasers.
After all, disrupting the vision of your enemies could help tip the scales of war. During that time, the justification to its development was that it’s a more humane weapon than napalm, radiation, or bombs. The research continued, until the Human Rights Watch called out the unnecessary danger it could bring. Understanding its impact, the United Nations prohibited the use of laser beams when it adopted the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons.
While they created the treaty over two decades ago, we can still feel its lessons to this day. It’s become the precursor of preemptive banning of illegal weapons that could prove to be very concerning for safety and security. For example, the discussion about lethal autonomous weapons is already leaning towards prohibition even during its development, much like how it was with blinding lasers.
9. Biological Weapons
Biological weapons inflict some of the most traumatizing means of devastation. So much so that they created the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. This was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of illegal weapons of mass destruction. It took full force in March 26, 1975.
One such weapon etched in history was rinderpest, a deadly cattle plague which Genghis Khan used to invade Europe in the 13th century. This resulted to a contagious disease that caused dehydration and eventual death of various animals, upsetting natural ecosystems as well as human food supplies.
But perhaps the most troubling is what they call chimera viruses. This refers to tweaking the genetic structure of viruses, such as anthrax and smallpox.
This makes them even more lethal, potentially triggering two diseases at once. For example, the Soviet Union’s Chimera Project studied the feasibility of combining smallpox and Ebola into one super virus back in the late 1980’s.
Just think of the horror such a weapon could bring and you’d understand why it makes sense to ban these illegal weapons.
8. Certain Bombs
We all know bombs are destructive forces used in warfare. But the following ones are especially devastating to the point they have to be prohibited.
The cluster bomb for example, indiscriminately damages civilians, combatants, and even infrastructure.
This type of bomb releases multiple projectiles on impact. That makes its use extremely devastating. It can also leave behind unexploded debris, causing further danger. As such, the Convention on Cluster Munitions held in May 2008 banned its use, bringing 108 signatories and 103 parties behind the treaty.
Another is a dirty bomb. It is somewhat like a weaker nuclear bomb, except it uses conventional explosives to spread dangerous radioactive material over a wide area, rather than a normal fission reaction.
This could cause alteration to DNA, resulting in cancer, mutations, and radiation sickness. Furthermore, it leaves a desolate wasteland in its wake, so there’s that problem.
Of course, nuclear weapons are the most popular for obvious reasons. The Tsar Bomba is probably the most fearsome.
It is described to cause similar damage to simultaneously detonating 3,800 Hiroshima bombs. Its dangers are well acknowledged that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was created in July 2017. It now has 57 states that participate in it. Of course, that still means there are many nations out there who still hold these weapons.
7. Expanding Bullet
Sustaining gunshot wounds can be deadly. But you know what’s worse? Getting hit by an expanding bullet.
Expanding ordinances, also given the moniker of hollow-point bullets or “dum-dums,” are designed to “mushroom” upon entering a target in order to stop the projectile from leaving the body.
Unlike regular bullets that just penetrate a targeted area, expanding bullets cause maximum tissue damage as they spread out upon impact. This type of bullet was formerly used by US policemen to mitigate collateral damage, but was discontinued after understanding how lethal it could be.
If that’s not enough, some are coated with poison, which could lead to secondary infections if the expanding ordnance failed to go for the kill. Some even contain anthrax spores or botulinum toxin, which is rather scary in conjunction with the gunshot wound.
Because of the imposing threat, this kind of bullet was banned under the Hague Convention of 1899. Even conservation, hunting and veterinary groups have filed a formal petition with the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the addition of poison to bullets, as it can severely backfire on humans
6. Punji Sticks
During the Vietnam War, a small and poorly equipped guerilla group known as the Viet Cong was at a disadvantage as they faced American forces that had more advanced weaponry. But, they were able to turn things around with a little bit of ingenuity using bamboos and hardwood, which were later dubbed punji sticks.
This weapons notorious reputation gave it a spot in the 1980 Geneva Convention, where this type of weaponry was banned. Punji Sticks were deemed to be excessively deadly and it was agreed that they have indiscriminate effects brought about by their poison coating. To date, there are 50 signatories and 125 parties that stand behind the treaty.
5. Incendiary Weapons
Incendiary weapons set fire to everything in their path, indiscriminately affecting both combatants and innocent civilians. Aside from this painful damage to people that’s difficult to treat, they can also destroy infrastructure as well. Their danger is acknowledged worldwide, so much that over 110 nations participated in the 1980 Convention on Incendiary Weapons.
Unfortunately, despite this agreement being in place, the use of such horrible weaponry is still evident today. The Human Rights Watch accused Russian and Syrian warplanes of using incendiary bombs and dropping them on civilian areas in Syria back in June 2016. Numerous pieces of video evidence exists along with, witness testimonies, and physical remnants of the bombs, proving this banned weapon has indeed been used.
And it’s not just Russia and Syria. The United States is also guilty, as it admitted using white phosphorus in Fallujah.
When exposed to oxygen this material ignites. The victims have described the sensation as feeling like “having their skin melted.”
4. Non-Detectable Fragments
As the term implies, this type of weapon cannot be seen by normal diagnostic procedures. The most common examples include minimal metal mines. Mines constructed of mostly plastic, wood or glass so that they can’t be detected by conventional metal mine detectors.
This makes them very troublesome. Consequently, the Protocol one of the 1979 Convention on Conventional Weapons prohibits them from use.
The most pressing reason for the ban is because they make it incredibly difficult to treat victims of these weapons. Because non-metal fragments are so difficult to find, surgeons have a challenging time trying to locate every piece. This leads to unnecessary suffering for the victim since there’s a huge chance some pieces are still left unaddressed. Their lack of metal also means the mines are extremely difficult to detect with metal detectors once a conflict has been resolved.
Hence, they’ll potentially cause unnecessary harm to civilians in the future.
The use of landmines, especially those with non-detectable fragments, is so bothersome that over 80 percent of the world’s countries are signatories to a treaty banning it. While there are a few countries that aren’t part of it, they don’t use or produce weapons with non-detectable fragments.
3. Twisting Blade
Any knife can cause mortal danger to anyone it stabs, but nothing could compare to the damage inflicted by a knife like the Jagdkommando Integral Tri-Dagger Fixed Blade.
Its defining feature is its three edges that twist from tip to the body, so it’s hard not to notice it.
While other knives have multiples uses, like cutting cords, preparing food, and many more, this twisting blade apparently only one sole purpose – to kill. They say that if you wish to kill someone with a normal blade, you need to twist the knife after you’ve stabbed the poor victim. The twisting blade saves you that extra step. That makes it the ultimate close-range killing weapon that leaves nasty wounds which prove difficult or impossible to stitch up.
That description in itself is enough for it to be covered in Protocol one of the Geneva Convention. It says, “It is prohibited to employ weapons, projectiles, material, and methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.” Excessive injury? Check. Extreme suffering? Another big check.
2. Brass Knuckles
If you’ve seen the film, “Constantine,” or the TV show, “Sopranos,” you may have already seen brass knuckles in several fight scenes. Despite how glamorous they though, some states actually prohibit these illegal weapons.
States like California, Michigan, Illinois, Vermont, and South Carolina have banned the use of brass knuckles, and for good reason. While they aren’t as deadly as most of the items discussed in this list, they can deliver serious injuries, from gnarly cuts to permanent eye damage and broken bones.
Just another reason not to mess with a bouncer. Contrary to what its name implies, this handheld weapon can also be made of acrylic, steel, or hard plastic. Yet despite being widely prohibited, some individuals are able to have one provided they acquire necessary permits. Bouncers and bodyguards have the authority to legally carry and use them when the job requires.
1. Chemical Weapons
Various chemical weapons exist, such as a tear gas used for riot control, mustard gas which became popular in World War I, and sarin, a toxic nerve agent.
But they can’t hold a candle to some of the deadliest ever made.
The deadliest of the bunch is VX. It is 10 times more potent than sarin in terms of lethal capabilities. Upon contact, it disrupts the body’s signaling between the nervous and muscular systems, leading to symptoms such as confusion, convulsions, loss of consciousness, paralysis, respiratory failure, and eventually death.
This lead to the creation of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, detailing that the production and stockpiling of VX is strictly outlawed. Yet, some people still use it. In 2017, Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother was assassinated with this chemical at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia.
Novichoks is another nerve agent. It is reportedly four times stronger than VX and almost impossible to detect.
Soviet Union developed this during the heat of the Cold War. Up to now, we don’t know much about its secretive chemicals. It creates the same symptoms as that of VX, making it another scary chemical weapon.
Which illegal weapon do you think most deserves being outlawed? Is there any weapon out there that you think should make it to the list? Let me know in the comments section down below! Thanks for reading.