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.

Compiled by Natalia Jevgelvskaja. Comments or corrections are welcome and may be sent to .

 StateGoverning 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 Security Law, Defence Legal, Department of Defence
Austriadirect application of Article 36 of APIInternational Law Section, Federal Ministry of DefenceWhile no written policy specifying the details of review process has been adopted, the assessment takes place whenever necessary and, in particular, when requested by the General Staff
BelgiumEtat-Major de la Défense, Ordre Général J/836 (18 July 2002)La Commission d’Evaluation Juridique des nouvelles armes, des nouveaux moyens et des nouvelles méthodes de guerre [Committee for the Legal Review of New Weapons, New Means and New Methods of Warfare]The weapons review directive has been revised to incorporate lessons learnt from the initial years of practice but has not been released to the public.
CanadaDirectorate of International and Operational Law, Office of the Judge Advocate General
Denmark no information availableno information availableSee Reply from Denmark, 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.18 (17 August 2005) ¶¶ 10–12
FranceMinistry of Defence Instructionno information availableFrance indicated to the ICRC that it carries out weapons reviews: ICRC, ‘A Guide to the Legal Review of New Weapons, Means and Methods of Warfare: Measures to Implement Article 36 of Additional Protocol I of 1977’ (2006) 88 International Review of the Red Cross 931, 934, fn 8
GermanyFederal Ministry of Defence, Zentrale Dienstvorschrift A-2146/1: Prüfung neuer Waffen, Mittel und Methoden der Kriegführung [Joint Service Regulation 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) (11 April 2016)
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 Zealanddraft directiveDefence 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
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, Verordnung des VBS 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 Kingdomno information availableDevelopment, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC)See UK Ministry of Defence, UK Weapon Reviews (2016)
United StatesOffice of the Judge Advocate General of the respective service