Expert Meeting Report: Incapacitating Chemical Agents: Implications for International Law

19-11-2010 Publication Ref. 4051

This publication is a summary report of the ICRC Expert Meeting on the implications for International Law posed by “incapacitating chemical agents”, held 24-26 March 2010 in Montreux, Switzerland. This meeting brought together a group of 33 government and independent experts who were joined by eight ICRC staff members.

By “incapacitating chemical agents”, the ICRC means chemicals that act on the central nervous system to incapacitate a person or to alter a person’s mood, emotion, cognition or perception. These are not chemicals such as riot-control agents that act peripherally to irritate mucous membranes or to cause tear formation (eg: tear gas).

The issues addressed in the meeting included the following:

  • The human impact of “incapacitating chemical agents”, including their feasibility, certain practical implications that would arise with their use and also ethical issues for health professionals that would be associated with their use;
  • Possible operational contexts in which “incapacitating chemical agents” might be deployed for use;
  • Potential implications for international law – including International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law – that might arise from the use of “incapacitating chemical agents”; and
  • Potential strategies and recommendations for addressing potential negative implications for International Law from the development and use of “incapacitating chemical agents”.

This report contains summaries by the speakers of their presentations, ICRC summaries of the discussions and the ICRC’s summary points on key themes that emerged from the meeting. At the end are some final remarks by the ICRC.

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