Legal Review of Weapons

Article 36 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions provides as follows:

In the study, development, acquisition or adoption of a new weapon, means or method of warfare, a High Contracting Party is under an obligation to determine whether its employment would, in some or all circumstances, be prohibited by this Protocol or by any other rule of international law applicable to the High Contracting Party.

A number of States parties to Additional Protocol I, as well as a few non-party States, are known to undertake weapons reviews of the kind envisaged by Article 36. The table below provides an general overview of these review practices.

Comments or corrections are welcome and may be sent to Dr Natalia Jevglevskaja ().

State Governing documentsReview authorityNotes
Argentinano information availableno information availableSee Reply from the Argentine Republic, Replies to Document CCW/GGE/X/WG.1/WP.2, Entitled "International Humanitarian Law and ERW", Dated 8 March 2005, Working Group on Explosive Remnants of War, 11th sess, Agenda item 7, UN Doc CCW/GGE/XI/WG.1/WP.10 (2 August 2005) ¶ 5(vii)
AustraliaDepartment of Defence, Defence Instruction (General) OPS 44-1: Legal Review of New Weapons (2 June 2005)Directorate of Operations and International Law, Defence Legal, Department of DefenceSee further Australia, The Australian Article 36 Review Process, CCW GGE on LAWS, UN Doc CCW/GGE.2/2018/WP.6 (30 August 2018)
Austriano written policy; direct application of Article 36 of APIInternational Law Section, Federal Ministry of Defence
BelgiumBelgian Armed Forces, Directorate-General for Legal Support, Procedure specifique / Specifieke procedure DGJUR-SPS-CJBCEJ-CXX-001/LEGAD-Int, Ed 001/Rév 000 (21 November 2018)La Commission d’Evaluation Juridique des nouvelles armes, des nouveaux moyens et des nouvelles méthodes de guerre / Commissie voor de Juridische Beoordeling van nieuwe wapens en nieuwe middelen of methodes van oorlogvoering [Committee for the Legal Review of New Weapons, New Means and New Methods of Warfare]
CanadaDirectorate of International and Operational Law, Office of the Judge Advocate GeneralSee also Office of the Judge Advocate General, Law of Armed Conflict at the Operational and Tactical Levels B-GJ-005-104/FP-021 (13 August 2001) ¶ 530
Denmark Ministry of Defence, Cirkulære om folkeretlig vurdering i forbindelse med udforskning, udvikling, erhvervelse eller valget af et nyt våben og af metoder eller midler i krigsførelse [Service Regulation on the international legal evaluation in connection to the study, development, acquisition, or adoption of a new weapon, means, or method of warfare], CIR1H nr 9494 (29 May 2018)Acquisition and Logistics Organisation, Ministry of DefenceSee also Danish Ministry of Defence, Militærmanual om folkeret i internationale militære operationer [Military Manual on International Law Relevant to Danish Armed Forces in International Operations] (2016) ¶ 9.19
FinlandDecree of the Defense Command of Finlandno information availableSee Finland, Statement, CCW GGE on LAWS (25 March 2019)
FranceMinistry of Defence Instructionno information available
GermanyFederal Ministry of Defence, Zentrale Dienstvorschrift: Prüfung neuer Waffen, Mittel und Methoden der Kriegführung [Joint Service Regulation: Review of New Weapons, Means and Methods of Warfare] ZDv A-2146/1 (13 June 2016)Steering Group for the Legal Review of New Weapons and Methods of Warfare, Federal Ministry of Defence
Israelno information availableMilitary Advocate General Corps, Israel Defence ForcesSee Israel, Statement on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), CCW GGE on LAWS (11 April 2016)
Italyno information availableno information availableSee Italy, Statement by Ambassador Gianfranco Incarnato, CCW GGE on LAWS (9–13 April 2018)
The NetherlandsMinister of Defence, Besluit houdende instelling van de Adviescommissie Internationaal Recht en Conventioneel Wapengebruik [Decision Establishing an Advisory Committee on International Law and the Use of Conventional Weapons] (5 June 2014)Adviescommissie Internationaal Recht en Conventioneel Wapengebruik [Advisory Committee on International Law and the Use of Conventional Weapons]
New ZealandNew Zealand Defence Force, DM 69 (2 ed) Manual of Armed Forces Law. Volume 4: Law of Armed Conflict (2018) ¶¶ 7.4.1–7.4.5Defence Legal Services, New Zealand Defence Force
NorwayMinistry of Defence, Direktiv om folkerettslig vurdering av vapen, krigforingsmetoder og krigforingsvirkemidler [Directive on the Legal Review on Weapons, Methods and Means of Warfare] (18 June 2003)Chief of Defence International Law Committee
Russiano information availableno information availableSee Russian Federation, Potential Opportunities and Limitations of Military Uses of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, CCW GGE on LAWS, UN Doc CCW/GGE.1/2019/WP.1 (15 March 2019) ¶¶ 8-9
SwedenFörordning om folkrättslig granskning av vapenprojekt [Ordinance on the International Law Review of Arms Projects] SFS 2007:936 (15 November 2007)Delegationen för folkrättslig granskning av vapenprojekt [Commission for the International Law Review of Arms Projects]
SwitzerlandFederal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport, Ordonnance sur le matériel de l’armée / Verordnung über das Armeematerial [Directive on the Material of the Armed Forces] 514.20 (6 December 2007)Law of Armed Conflict Section, Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport
United KingdomInternal Ministry of Defence Instruction on Article 36 Weapon ReviewsDevelopment, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC)See UK Ministry of Defence, UK Weapon Reviews (2016)
United StatesOffice of the Judge Advocate General of the respective serviceSee also US Department of Defense, Law of War Manual (December 2016) ¶¶ 6.2.1-6.2.4
Last updated: 5 November 2020

This table draws on the following sources: