Stop the deployment of laser weapons to Afghanistan

January 4, 2008

Stop the deployment of laser weapons to Afghanistan

Dear supporter,

The Harper government has bought new laser weapons to deploy in Afghanistan.

Send your letter to the Prime Minister.

These laser weapons, sometimes called laser dazzlers, are mounted on rifles, and are intended to temporarily blind, or “dazzle” people. General Rick Hillier says he wants soldiers to use them to keep Afghans away from military checkpoints and vehicles. But the truth is, these weapons may be more dangerous than General Hillier thinks, and could inadvertently blind innocent civilians – permanently! That’s why we need to be sure laser weapons are being passed through a rigorous, transparent testing mechanism.

I ask that you please join me in sending a letter to Stephen Harper, demanding that he take the following steps:

1) Place a moratorium on the deployment of laser weapons;

2) Undertake the development and implementation of a transparent review process for assessing whether new weapons violate international law;


3) Test any new weapons currently under consideration for purchase by Canada.

All the best,

Military sets out plan to test high-tech weapons

National Post
Monday, December 24, 2007
Byline: David Pugliese

OTTAWA – The Canadian military has submitted details to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva about how it will test new weapons such as laser “dazzler” systems for use in Afghanistan.

But an Ottawa think-tank is pushing for greater scrutiny of such purchases and how new high-tech weapons are used in the field. The Rideau Institute argues that the policy is simply a draft document and shows that Canada hasn’t moved forward in meeting its obligation under the Geneva Conventions to put protocols in place governing the fielding of new arms.

The Defence Department has set aside a little more than $10-million for the purchase of laser dazzlers for use in Afghanistan.

The Canadian Forces is looking at buying the devices designed to temporarily blind individuals as part of its efforts to reduce the number of innocent Afghans killed or wounded by troops for failing to heed warnings not to approach military convoys. The systems are capable of disrupting the vision of a person 50 to 500 metres away, depending on the specific type of model used.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Rick Hillier said the military has put the dazzlers through some tests but no decision has yet been made on whether to purchase them for the Afghanistan mission. But the Defence Department has submitted to the Red Cross a draft of a policy it would follow for the fielding of such new weapons.

In meetings in 2003 and 2005, officials with the Defence Department and Foreign Affairs met with the Red Cross to discuss improving procedures for examining the capabilities of weapons at the time of purchase. This was being done to comply with a protocol of the Geneva Conventions meant to ensure that a nation can show that a new weapon does not violate treaties the country has signed.

But Anthony Salloum, program director of the left-leaning Rideau Institute, said the draft policy the Defence Department produced shows little progress has been made on the issue of testing new weapons.

“All they’ve come up with in the last two years is a draft policy,” he said. “It’s not much and considering the promises the government made in 2005 it seems like they’ve gone backwards on this issue.”

Defence officials declined to be interviewed on the laser dazzler issue and did not answer questions about testing procedures. The department instead e-mailed a transcript of questions and answers raised about the systems during a recent Commons defence committee meeting.

The Foreign Affairs department has not responded to requests for comment made a month ago on the subject of weapons testing and the Geneva Conventions.

Mr. Salloum said the laser dazzlers fall into the same category as Tasers, as they are untested and could harm innocent people.

Canada has ratified a treaty that prevents the use of weapons that cause permanent blindness. The manufacturers of the dazzlers acknowledge they can damage a person’s eyes if improperly used at close ranges. Being hit by a dazzler is like looking directly into the sun.

Gen. Hillier said medical reports on the health effects of the dazzlers are being examined. “We are not going to be using something that clearly would be against international conventions that we’ve signed on to,” he told the Commons committee.

But if tests show that the dazzlers can do the job, the general said, the systems will be purchased.

The military wants to mount the dazzlers on rifles and vehicles, mainly for use in protecting convoys. It’s hoped the systems can reduce the number of Afghan civilians killed or injured by soldiers after failing to heed warnings to stop at checkpoints or to not approach convoys. At least 22 Afghans have been wounded and another nine killed in such incidents.

Tags: Afghanistan, Defence policy