Why is illegal for CS gas (tear gas) to be used in warfare but countries can use it on their domestic population?



In: 4

Because it is assumed that a State using that against its own citizens would exercise due caution in the type of gas used, the deployment methods, the circumstances, etc. Tear gas in a riot situation is only really used for dispersal, so that people would leave a specific area and/or would break up their assembly. You just have to walk away to be able to breathe and the effects, although not pleasant, don’t last too long and go away without any special treatement.

In warfare however, there are very few rules coutries are willing to abide by. We’re talking about planes smoking entire towns and leaving people to suffocate, eventually dying from it. That’s why it’s under the same rules as most chemical agents used in war, like nerve agents.


One of the principles of being a sovereign nation is that you can do whatever you want inside your own borders and no one else gets a say. If you can’t then you aren’t sovereign and are a client/puppet state

Rules of war aren’t so much “this is illegal and you’ll get arrested” so much as “this isn’t actually strategically useful and just causes unnecessary suffering so we’ll support your opponent”. Basically everything that’s “illegal” in war is on the list because it doesn’t actually help win wars

So in the end it comes down to – will someone invade you for using tear gas on your own citizens? Likely no, yay sovereignty! They don’t want you meddling in their internal affairs either. Will someone invade you for using tear gas on your neighbor’s citizens? Well definitely your neighbor but likely their friends too

In a war scenario, you can’t really tell the difference between poison gas that wil kill, and tear gas that’s just an irritant.

Banning chemical weapons in war is mainly to prevent unnecessary accidental escalation as well as prevent suffering to some extent.

So firstly, the 1925 Geneva convention banned the use of gaseous chemical weapons in warfare, but did not specify what chemicals actually constituted chemical weapons. As such, it has been a longterm debate as to whether or not the Geneva convention should apply to CS gas.

The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) officially classifies CS gas as a Riot Control Agent (RCA) and prohibits the use of RCAs “as a method of warfare”.

That last phrase is important, because it has led to debate as to what exactly defines “a method of warfare”. The United States has taken the position that a method of warfare means waging war on an opposing country or force, and therefore reserves its right to use RCAs in a defensive setting.

Otherwise, RCAs are a nonlethal weapon in law enforcement use, but in military applications they can be unpredictable and obstructive. As an example, some of the biggest points to take away from warcrimes are “don’t fuck with medics” and “dont fuck with surrendered soldiers”, but gas can prevent medics from fulfilling their duties, it may prevent soldiers from recognizing medics, it can prevent soldiers from recognizing an attempt to surrender, all of which lead to unnecessary loss of life.

There is no why, other than, “We signed a treaty”. International law is, in reality, just a tissue of agreements that various coutries have agreed to abide by. When one country stops abiding by the treaty, the other signatories have one of two options: Do nothing, or go to war.

So, like any law, in any country, international treaties don’t have to make sense. For some reason it’s illegal for me to gas enemy troops with a chemical irritant, but I can bombard them with explosives that will blow them into bolognese.