Armed Conflict: White Phosphorus

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 4th December 2020.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 24 November (HL10150), what steps they are taking to review the designation of white phosphorus as “a legitimate obscurant”; and what assessment they have made of whether it constitutes a war crime when white phosphorous is used as a weapon against civilian populations.

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The use of white phosphorous in smoke grenades, decoy and countermeasure equipment and signalling flares is not prohibited under International Humanitarian Law. Incendiary weapons, including incendiary weapons containing white phosphorous, are governed by Protocol III of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) which prohibits incendiary weapons being deployed against civilians or military targets within a concentration of civilians. Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, irrespective of the weapon, is a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law and a war crime under the Rome Statue.

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