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This case concerns an attack launched on 23 January 1989 by 42 armed persons on the barracks of the General Belgrano Mechanized Infantry Regiment No. 3 (RIM 3), at La Tablada, Buenos Aires province. The ensuing combat between the attackers and Argentine military personnel, which lasted approximately 30 hours, resulted in the deaths of 29 of the attackers and several state agents. The RIM 3 barracks had an arsenal from which the attackers, after having entered the site, seized a number of weapons which they used to defend their positions.
The Commission considered that despite its brief duration, the violent clash between the attackers and members of the Argentine armed forces triggered application of the provisions of Common Article 3 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as well as other rules relevant to the conduct of hostilities in non-international armed conflict, and decided to apply directly the rules of international humanitarian law.Case No. 11.137, Report No. 55/97, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.95 Doc. 7 rev. at 271 (1997), §§9, 10, 156-7, 180, 187–8.
The Argentine military was accused of having used ‘white phosphorus or incendiary bombs’ in its operation to retake the barracks at La Tablada, and that by its use of ‘incendiary weapons’, the Argentine military had violated the prohibition on the use, in armed conflict, of weapons of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.
A video of the attack showed 'a fiery explosion' in a structure presumably occupied by some of the attackers, but the Commission considered that 'the precise nature of the weapon used that caused the explosion in not revealed by the tape'. The Commission noted that even if it were proven that the Argentine military had used incendiary weapons, 'it cannot be said that their use in January 1989 violated an explicit prohibition applicable to the conduct of internal armed conflicts at that time’, as Argentina had ratified CCW Protocol III on incendiary weapons only in 1995, and because the temporal scope of the CCW (at the time) was limited to international armed conflict, and did, hence, not directly apply to the internal hostilities at La Tablada. The Commission also noted that ‘the Protocol does not make the use of such weapons per se unlawful. Although it prohibits their direct use against peaceable civilians, it does not ban their deployment against lawful military targets, which include civilians who directly participate in combat.’
Owing to lack of sufficient evidence that state agents had used illegal methods and means of combat, the Commission concluded that the killing or wounding of the attackers which had occurred prior to the cessation of combat did not constitute violations of the American Convention or applicable international humanitarian law rules.Case No. 11.137, Report No. 55/97, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.95 Doc. 7 rev. at 271 (1997), §§ , 10, 180, 187–8.
Last updated on: 09 December 2013
The 1980 Protocol III on Incendiary Weapons of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons restricts use of incendiary weapons as a means or method of warfare during armed conflict.+ More
The 1980 Conventional Weapons Convention (CCW), also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, is an umbrella convention containing general provisions. Restrictions and prohibitions on particular weapons, such as blinding lasers, incendiary weapons, and mines are contained in protocols annexed to the Convention.+ More