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Armed Conflict: White Phosphorus

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN HL10688, tabled on 25 November 2020

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.

Answered on

4 December 2020

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.