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Incendiary Weapons: Legal and Humanitarian Aspects

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Chapter Summary

Among the many aspects of the American participation in the Vietnam war that have irritated public opinion in and outside the United States, the extensive use of napalm drew particularly severe criticism. This negative appreciation leads to the obvious question whether the use of napalm was a legitimate course of action under the existing law of armed conflict. This chapter answers this question and examines one of the legality of use of incendiary weapons in general. In the wars waged since the failure of the Disarmament Conference, all conceivable types of incendiary weapons have been used in all kinds of situation. In 1955, the ICRC published its Draft Rules for the Protection of the Civilian Population from the Dangers of Indiscriminate Warfare, as a first step towards a new, adequate codification of the areas of humanitarian law not covered in the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Keywords: civilian population; Geneva conventions; humanitarian aspects; ICRC; incendiary weapons; league disarmament conference



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