The Encyclopedia is a project of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights launched on 2 December 2013. The Enyclopedia aims to provide accurate, up-to-date information on weapons, the effects of their use, and their regulation under public international law, in a format that is accessible to non-specialists.+ Find out more
The term 'means of delivery' is used, for example, in the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. Pursuant to Article 1, states parties to the Convention undertake 'never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain: ... weapons, equipment or means of delivery' designed to use microbial or other biological agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
One commentator points out:
the lack of definition of “weapons, equipment or means of delivery” led to a controversy. In ratifying the BW Convention, Switzerland reserved the right to decide for itself which items fall within the definition of weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use biological agents or toxins. The United States entered an objection to this reservation, claiming that it would not be appropriate for States to reserve unilaterally the right to take such decisions. In its opinion, the prohibited items are those the design of which indicates that they could have no other use than that specified in the Convention, or that they were intended to be capable of the use specified. There are, however, few weapons, equipment or means of delivery which would meet such criteria.J. Goldblat, 'The Biological Weapons Convention - An overview', 318(1997) International Review of the Red Cross (footnotes omitted).
The term 'means of delivery' is also used in 1980 Protocol II to the CCW and 1996 Amended Protocol II to the CCW on mines, booby-traps and other devices. Article 3(8) of the latter prohibits 'the indiscriminate use' of mines, booby-traps and other devices and specifies that indiscriminate use includes any placement of such weapons 'which employs a method or means of delivery which cannot be directed at a specific military objective'. (Art. 8(3)(b))
In some instances, different rules apply to the use of weapons depending on their means of delivery. Notably, pursuant to Article 2(2) of Protocol III to the CCW
It is prohibited in all circumstances to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by air-delivered incendiary weapons. (Emphasis added)
In a declaration upon signature of the treaty, the United Kingdom expressed its understanding that this does 'not imply that the air-delivery of incendiary weapons, or of any other weapons, projectiles or munitions, is less accurate or less capable of being carried out discriminately than all or any other means of delivery.'
Last updated on: 08 August 2017