After the horrible events of World War I, governments of different nations and other international institutions penned down various worldwide treaties and agreements, that refrain anyone from using certain poisonous gases and other bacteriological weapons against their enemies in war. One such agreement is the Geneva Protocol of 1925.
The protocol prohibited the use of several asphyxiating agents, poisonous or other dangerous gases, and other bacteriological methods of Warfare and other international conflicts. Below are some of the brutal weapons developed mostly in 20h century, which are banned by international laws.
While there hasn’t been a war on a worldwide scale after the World War II, and I hope we never get there, it’s clear that these weapons are considered far more cruel than the war itself.
Some of the weapons shown here are totally prohibited to use in any scenario, while some are banned from its use in civilian areas. Since you all know nuclear weapons are banned worldwide, we haven’t included any, as our aim is to introduce less-known things.
Ecuadorian air force drops napalm during a joint Ecuadorian and US air force exercise.
Napalm is a highly dangerous flammable liquid, which is manufactured by a combination of thickening agents and a petroleum-derived fuel. After it was secretly developed at the Harvard University laboratory in 1942, it became a popular weapon against buildings and was later instituted as an anti-personnel ammunition.
The first use of this substance was performed against the German city of Berlin during the Second World War by the US Air Force. Although it’s not specifically banned by the international law to use against military targets, its use in civilian areas is strictly monitored and prohibited under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980.
12. Blinding Laser Beams
Image Courtesy: Dainomite
Non-lethal, laser beams can inflict severe damages to human retinas and can even cause permanent blindness. One such device was the Chinese ZM-87 laser Disturber, which was explicitly designed to blind human targets. Nearly 20 units were manufactured before the production was stopped due to the enforcement of 1995 UN’s ban on blinding laser weapons.
The American Dazzler, though, is a similar weapon as the ZM-87, it does not cause permanent blindness. In 2006, the American military in Iraq announced that they will use laser Dazzlers as a step to prevent suspect vehicle drivers who fail to stop at various armed checkpoints.
Greek fire may have been an early version of the flamethrower.
Pork Chop Hill, anyone? Or Mad Max 2 or Watchmen 2013? I am sure you must have seen at least one Hollywood movie where they used flamethrowers which make these movies an instant badass. Over the years, many international films have successfully shown the brutality inflicted by this evil device. And they have somewhat been able to portray actuality into the reel.
It is generally believed that the first use of flamethrowers (or some similar weapon) was performed by the Greeks around the 1st century B.C. After its extensive use in the World War II by both sides, which inflicted hundreds of horrible deaths, flamethrowers were again used in Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Even after the years of objections, flamethrowers are still not banned in a complete sense, as they have practical and commercial uses.
10. Punji Sticks
Punji stake pit (National Museum of the Marine Corps)
Alright! You must be thinking that there are many other sophisticated and deadly weapons out there, which are not banned by the international law so why this? Punji sticks have a long history of horrible pain and agony it cause to anyone who walks right into the traps. The focal point of attack of the punji sticks was generally in the lower-leg area, where it inflicted serious injuries.
In many cases, legs have to be amputated due to the unrepairable damages, while deaths were rare. I think you have your answer by now. These sticks were not necessarily intended to kill, rather most of the time they were adjusted to slow down enemy movements. The use of punji sticks in any act of conflict is banned from use under the 1980 Geneva Convention.
9. Anti-Personnel Land Mines
Image of VS50 Anti-personal mine used in Sri-Lanka and Iraq
Contrary to anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines are specifically designed for its use against humans or personnel. Most of the times these mines are meant only to injure and not kill due to tactical reasons. While they are a threat to the enemy army, it can also pose greater challenges to civilians inhabited in nearby areas.
After worldwide campaigns to ban such mines, the Ottawa Treaty was put into the action in 1977, which ban the use of anti-personnel mines. But the treaty is still not accepted by various nations due to security and feasibility reasons.
8. Drug-Resistant Bio-weapons
Image Courtesy: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Black Death or Bubonic plague once frighten the humanity and almost killed half the population of the world. With few thousand cases worldwide annually, it reminds us that this viral infection is still in the corner. But bio-weapon researchers are worried that this deadly virus can be used by terrorist organizations as an effective biological weapon.
If any terrorist group or illegal organization is somehow able to develop a new, more advanced strain of the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which couldn’t be cured or restrained by available anti-bacterial medicine, which by the way occurred several times in the course of history, can devastate the entire mankind.
7. White phosphorus munitions
A USAF personnel inspecting white phosphorus rockets at Osan Air Base (South Korea) in 1996.
The very first recorded use of white phosphorus munitions was during the World War I by the American and British forces, it was used by the Japanese forces (by lesser extent) in mortar shells and rockets. Apart from that, they were used against civilians in big cities like London, Tokyo, and Hamburg.
White phosphorus is basically an allotrope of phosphorus which is commonly used in military grade smoke cans and as an incendiary munition. An adequate amount of exposure to white phosphorus can have adverse effects on humans, such as third-grade burns, heart and kidney failure and ultimately death.
The use of such incendiary weapons against civilians was banned by various nations after the enforcement of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol III signed in 1980 and it’s strictly regulated by militaries around the world.
6. Hollow-Point Bullets
A fired .38 Special hollow-point bullet (side view)
A hollow point bullet is simply a hollowed projectile which expands after entering the intended target. These types of bullets have generally higher accuracy, produce less smoke and fouling but it also has decreased penetration rate and disrupt more body tissues than other bullets. Use of this type of bullets in any international warfare is banned under the Hague Convention of 1899.
Despite this ban, hollow point bullets are widely used by police forces and even civilians of many nations due to its speed, faster rate of incapacitation and overall reduced risk to hitting other nearby people (bystanders). More recently, the US Army has announced that it will consider hollow type bullets for their side arms.
5. Cluster Bombs
A U.S Navy Grumman A-6E Intruder dropping cluster bombs over Iranian targets in 1988.
A cluster bomb is basically a pack of many smaller munitions or sub-munitions, that are packed in a large container and are deployed to their assigned targets generally by air drops. Although cluster bombs were used in many international conflicts effectively since the Vietnam War, they pose a very serious and unique challenge in civilian areas.
During the Vietnam war, as much as 7,000 non-military personnel were severely injured and many of the explosives are still scattered dangerously in many parts of the country. More recently, a whole bunch of cluster bombs was used against Iraq by the United States from 2003 to 2006. There were few instances where civilians died after they came in contact with live bomblets which failed to explode after impact.
Under the Ottawa Treaty, use of cluster bombs are banned in many countries and other agreements were also put in place to clear the active debris of cluster bombs from around the world, especially in West Asia, but that seems to be a near-impossible task as of now.
Tabun is one of the G-series nerve agents, in fact, it was the first of nerve agents developed by German chemist Gerhard Schrader in 1936. It is one of the fatal toxic substances due to its rapid effect on the nervous system in humans and other mammalians.
Its early discovery led to its use during the World War II by the Germans. Then around the 1980s, Iraqi forces used tabun alongside sarin and mustard gas against Iranians to decapitate their ground forces. While overexposure of this toxic gas can result in death, other serious conditions associated with it are miosis, dyspnea, slow heartbeat, loss of consciousness and loss of bowel control and lung puncture.
As of now, its production and stockpiling of Tabun is strictly banned by the international community after the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.
3. Sulfur Mustard
Pallets of artillery shells containing sulfur mustard agent at a chemical weapons storage facility.
Nothing is more horrible than watching another person in excruciating pain with dreadful blisters on an exposed skin, but that’s what sulfur mustard or mustard gas have been doing for decades. The first large-scale use of mustard gas was during the World War I by German forces against allied forces in Belgium. Then the French army used it against the Germans after raiding a stockpile in late 1917.
Since then, it has been used around a dozen times in different parts of the world, including the 2016 mustard gas attack by ISIS against the Syrian Army. The use of this gas is strictly monitored under the Chemical Weapons Convention (1993) which is signed by more than 160 countries. As of 2016, 89% of world’s total mustard gas stockpile has been destroyed.
2. Sarin Gas
Rabbit used to check Sarin nerve gas leak at a production plant
I am almost certain that you gave heard about this nerve agent at least once in all these years. It’s definitely one of the most deadliest, toxic nerve agent humanity has ever witnessed. A direct exposure to this deadly gas can lead to suffocation, muscle failure and death if antidote is not injected in time.
The most noted use of sarin gas was during the second battle of al-Faw, where it was used four times against the Iranian soldiers by Iraqis to take control of the peninsula. Other instances include Tokyo subway attack in 1995 and Ghouta chemical attack in 2013.
1. Nerve Agent VX
The “transester process” a method of production of VX
VX is widely considered as the most lethal synthetic chemical weapon. Unlike Tabun and Sarin gas, it is a V-series agent, which were first discovered by chemists Ranajit Ghosh and J.F. Newman in 1952. It is recognized as a weapon of mass destruction and is prohibited by the CWC act.
However, several cases of VX usage came into the spotlight over the last few decades. One such instance occurred in 1988 when it was used inHalabja chemical att ack against Kurds by Saddam Hussein. One more, recent and high profile use of VX was spotted on February 13, 2017, when it was used to kill half-brother of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Malaysia.
Novichok group of nerve agents is a Russian counterpart to the VX agent, which was manufactured by Soviet Union during the Cold War specifically for its use in warfare. These chemicals are supposedly the deadliest nerve agents in the world, though their credibility has never been proven.