Protocol I of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) restricts fragmentation weapons, Protocol II restricts landmines, and Protocol III restricts incendiary weapons. Protocol IV, on Blinding Laser Weapons, prohibits the use and transfer of laser weapons designed to cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision. It requires parties to take all feasible precautions to prevent the use of laser systems accidentally causing permanent blindness. Direct viewing of even low-power laser beams can destroy that part of the retina responsible for fine detail vision. Higher-power lasers can cause internal bleeding in the eye and permanent loss of vision. Protocol IV does not restrict the use of laser systems in combat, and Article 3 specifically recognises that accidental blindness may result from legitimate military use of these systems, such as against optical equipment. This Protocol does not include any provisions for verification of compliance. The Protocol does not prevent development or stockpiling of blinding laser weapons, nor did it make provision for obligatory disclosure of currently held types and stocks maintained or for inspections or sanctions in the event of breaches.
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 -- the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention -- is also referred to as the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) or the the Inhumane Weapons Convention (IWC). The CCW was concluded at Geneva on 10 October 1980, and entered into force on 02 December 1983. Protocol IV, on Blinding Laser Weapons, was adopted by a conference of States' Parties on 13 October 1995. This Protocol came into force six months after it was ratified by 20 countries. Hungary became the 20th country to ratify the new protocol in February 1998. A review conference in 2001 could consider verification procedures and any other amendments considered necessary.
In the 1970's it was claimed that Chinese soldiers were blinded by Soviet-built laser systems during the China-Vietnam war. In the 1982 Falklands war, Argentine pilots reported being dazzled by lasers from British ships. During the Iran-Iraq War, over 4,000 Iranian soldiers sustained injuries due to Iraqi laser systems. Throughout the 1980's, the Soviet Union were long suspected of directing lasers at US spyplanes. In 1989 a US-USSR bilateral agreement imposed restrictions on the use of low-energy lasers. In 1989 the International Committee of the Red Cross called for multi-lateral controls.
Anti-personnel laser weapons are inexpensive, sold openly by the Third World, have line-of-sight aiming, and are capable of producing catastrophic results if used against aircrews and sensors in flight.
Primary documents, including treaty text and associated memoranda, statements and other related material.
Chronological archive of news reports, commentary analysis and other related material, including official factsheets, announcements, briefings and speeches.
- U.S. Military Master Laser Safety Homepage
- Laser Safety Related Resources @ LaserNet
- LASER RANGE SAFETY Range Commanders Council, White Sands Missile Range, OCTOBER 1998
United States Battlefield Laser SystemsIraqi Anti-Personnel Lasers
- Weapons Which Cause “Superfluous Injury or Unnecessary Suffering”
- RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF BLINDING LASER WEAPONS AND LANDMINES February 1997
- Non-Lethal Technologies: Military Options and Implications Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations
- Laser Anti-personnel Weapons