Nanotechnology and challenges to international humanitarian law: a preliminary legal assessment

30-06-2012 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 886, by Hitoshi Nasu


The introduction of nanotechnology into our civil life and warfare is expected to influence the application and interpretation of the existing rules of international humanitarian law. This article examines the challenges posed to international humanitarian law by the widespread use of nanotechnology in light of four basic rules of international humanitarian law: (1) the obligation to ensure the legality of weapons; (2) distinction; (3) proportionality; and (4) precaution. It concludes by identifying three areas of concern, which arise from widespread use of nanotechnology, for the application of international humanitarian law.

Keywords: nanotechnology, superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, environmental protection, the principle of distinction, proportionality, precaution.


Hitoshi Nasu is Senior Lecturer in law at the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.