Non-lethal weapons top UN hit-list

September 22, 1995

Analysts in new weapons technology from Bradford University are expected today to urge the United Nations to issue a complete ban on the use of "inhumane" weapons, including lasers that blind personnel and small anti-personnel mines that can cause horrific injuries.

The academics, based at the university's peace studies department, will make their call at a London conference aimed at drawing attention to next week's UN review of its inhumane conventional weapons convention in Vienna.

Nick Lewer, researcher at the department, says that many "non- lethal" weapons (NLWs) such as lasers and anti-personnel mines are "repugnant in that they cause unnecessary, superfluous and indiscriminate suffering. They affect civilians as well as military personnel." Other NLWs include sticky or slippery foaming agents, which can fill a room with bubbles so that people cannot hear, see or move but can breathe, and super-strong adhesives used as immobilising weapons.

The Bradford group wants to see the current convention, which came into force in 1983, reviewed every two years, arguing that it is now "desperately" out of date and has not kept up with rapid advances in non-lethal weapons technology and its increasing availability. The convention currently has 52 signatories and has been ratified by 49 states, an indication of the high level of concern non-lethal weapons are causing worldwide.

A complete ban on laser-blinding weapons is at the top of the Bradford group's demands. Dr Lewer says that this is urgently needed: "Already such lasers are appearing on the open market. China is advertising its ZM-87 portable laser system to 'injure and dizzy' the eyes".

The Bradford team wants the UN to impose a total ban on anti-personnel mines.

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