If a "Red line" is drawn by the Obama administration over the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, because it is unconventional weapons, why is there no red line drawn for the use of a car bomb that killed 126 civilians in Aleppo Province on Easter Saturday? To my understanding, killing civilians itself is against the Geneva Convention.

Are car bombs considered a conventional weapon?

  • Is there confirmation that rebels were behind the attack? I realise it's by far the most likely scenario, but has it been actually confirmed?
    – yannis
    Apr 20, 2017 at 7:35
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    The attack was most likely not launched by the rebels considering there were many rebels killed in the attack and the car bomb supposedly came from the government controlled Aleppo
    – KevinZ
    Apr 20, 2017 at 14:18
  • @SmedleyDSlap It could be organized by another rebel's group. There are far more than two sides in the Syria conflict.
    – Sjoerd
    Apr 20, 2017 at 15:36
  • A 'car bomb' is not a weapon. In order to proscribe a weapon it must be detailed and documented. The correct term is Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device or VIED. Only the press label them car bombs. Indigochild has an excellent answer detailing the law regarding improvised devices disguised as civilian items. Apr 20, 2017 at 20:55

3 Answers 3



The treaty you are asking about is actually the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons and not the Geneva Convention.

The second part of that convention (the Protocol on Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices) defines a booby-trap as:

"Booby-trap" means any device or material which is designed, constructed or adapted to kill or injure, and which functions unexpectedly when a person disturbs or approaches an apparently harmless object or performs an apparently safe act.

A car-bomb is a booby-trap, and therefore a conventional weapon under the Convention.

Usage of Booby Traps

To answer another aspect of your question, the usage of booby-traps against civilians is prohibited in "non-international" conflicts:

In case of armed conflicts not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply the prohibitions and restrictions of this Protocol.

However, this does not apply to ordinary disturbances, such as riots, but only to armed conflict (such as civil war):

This Protocol shall not apply to situations of internal disturbances and tensions, such as riots, isolated and sporadic acts of violence and other acts of a similar nature, as not being armed conflicts.

Although none of this matters in this case, because Syria is not a signatory to this Convention.


The "red line" would be war crimes. Killing civilians is not always a war crime. Killing them in inhumane ways, e.q. with chemical weapons is a war crime.

A secondary aspect to consider is that individuals and states alike can commit war crimes. The international community may condemn war crimes committed by individuals, but as long as they're isolated incidents they would not justify an international response. Those incidents would primarily be the responsibility of the commanding officers. But the use of industrial chemical weapons dropped from airplanes cannot be the work of individuals.

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    Killing civilians always a violation of the Geneva Convention when it is part of a conflict that is "not of an international character". See Convention 1, Article 3 Apr 20, 2017 at 14:09
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    The problem with that is, is that there's never been a war without "collateral damage" in the form of civilian lives @indigochild. So where do you draw the line between "collateral damage" and "war crime"?
    – user11249
    Apr 20, 2017 at 14:50
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    @Carpetsmoker - If that isn't already a question, it would be an excellent one. Apr 20, 2017 at 15:37
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    @indigochild: You probably meant "Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. " although the conventions share the first few articles including Art 3.But either way, I think you're reading too much into it. Consider this analysis by the International Red Cross itself. Article 3a seems the closest, but that appears to be about the intentional killing or torturing or non-combatants.
    – MSalters
    Apr 20, 2017 at 22:18

why is there no red line drawn for the rebels' use of a car bomb that killed 126 Shiite civilians in Aleppo Province on Easter Saturday?

What's the point of punishing your friends and families?

Two recent cases demonstrate that, an attack on evacuees from besieged government held towns and a suicide attack on kids in a government held town.

So to your broader question, "no" would be my answer.

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