HAVANA SYNDROME — International Legal Implications

“The involvement of foreign governments has yet to be confirmed. But if China and Cuba were involved, would the use of directed, pulsed RF energy against personnel constitute a use of force or an armed attack under international law that gives rise to the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter?”

Raul Pedrozo — Professor of International Law

December 25 2020 — Two years ago, I suggested that microwave attacks would be illegal under International Law. In a recent analysis, International Law Professor Raul Pedrozo comes to the same conclusion. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

RELATED POST: Havana Syndrome — What Are the Frequencies Used by US Intel for Microwave Spying? [2019]

RELATED POST: Three Years Ago — US Spies & the Havana Syndrome

RELATED POST: One Year Ago — Havana Syndrome : Pesticide may have caused diplomats’ illness. Really? [Comments from Dr James Giordano]

RELATED POST: Two Years Ago — Havana Syndrome & Microwave Weapons: Q&A with Professor James Lin

“Numerous countries, including the United States and Russia, continue to have active high-power [microwave] research programs. However, China’s current research outpaces all other programs. Testifying before Congress in 2017, U.S. State Department officials unanimously agreed that the two incidents were attacks.”

The report by the National Academies of Sciences is finally available. The committee has concluded that microwave exposure is the most plausible mechanism in explaining the Havana Syndrome.

On October 3 2017, I coined the expression “Havana syndrome” which is now widely used in the media, as well as in the scientific and the medical communities… And now by International Law experts!

Soon after I coined the expression ‘Havana Syndrome’, I also questioned the legal status of a microwave attack under International Law.

On September 17 2018, I wrote:

“Should the use of microwave spying tools be described as microwave attack? This is no longer about semantics. This is about International Law. For instance, Article 29 of the 1961 Vienna Convention states that ‘The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable…the receiving state shall treat him with all due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom, or dignity.’

For now, it appears that the US Government considers that the use of microwave radiation against a diplomat is a violation of the Vienna Convention. Indeed, in mid-February 2017, U.S. officials reminded Cuban officials in Havana and Washington, D.C., about their responsibilities under the Vienna Convention.”

Captain Raul (Pete) Pedrozo, U.S. Navy (Ret.), is the Howard S. Levie Chair on the Law of Armed Conflict and Professor of International Law in the Stockton Center for International Law at the U.S. Naval War College.

In a piece published on December 23 2020, Professor Pedrozo argued that the development of a new microwave weapon would have serious international humanitarian law implications.

Under the U.N. Charter, states are prohibited from threatening or using force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

Articles 2(4), 39, 42 and 51 of the U.N. Charter do not refer to specific weapons. Rather, in the words of an International Court of Justice advisory opinion, “they apply to any use of force, regardless of the weapons employed.”

Thus, the use of a nonkinetic weapon that generates directed RF energy that causes physical harm to humans can be considered a use of force or armed attack under international law in certain circumstances.


The severity of these long-term injuries affecting brain functions clearly satisfies the scale and effects requirement of a use of force and/or an armed attack, giving rise to the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. But that designation assumes that the attack can be attributed to a state or non-state actor.


The possibility of Cuba’s and China’s employment of directed, pulsed RF energy weapons against U.S. personnel at the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate, respectively, could potentially constitute a violation of their treaty obligations under the U.N. Charter’s prohibition on the use of force.

It could also qualify as an international wrongful act for which Cuba and China potentially bear state responsibility. While the U.S. government has not officially designated Cuba or China as the responsible states, if that does occur, Cuba and China would have an obligation to make full reparation for the injury caused by their internationally wrongful acts. Full reparation could include restitution, compensation and/or satisfaction.

Finally, I will take this opportunity to point out that Professor Raul Pedrozo is entirely correct when he states that China’s current research in microwave weapons outpaces all other programs.

Edl Schamiloglu is a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, and the associate dean for research and innovation for the School of Engineering at the University of New Mexico.

In a recent piece, this expert on microwave weapons pointed out the following. [See: Scientists Suggest U.S. Embassies Were Hit with High-Power Microwaves – Here’s How the Weapons Work]

“Today, research in high-power microwaves continues in the U.S. and Russia but has exploded in China.

I have visited labs in Russia since 1991 and labs in China since 2006, and the investment being made by China dwarfs activity in the U.S. and Russia.

Dozens of countries now have active high-power microwave research programs.


The Russians and the Chinese certainly possess the capabilities of fielding high-power microwave sources like the ones that appear to have been used in Cuba and China.

The truth of what actually happened to U.S. personnel in Cuba and China—and why—might remain a mystery, but the technology most likely involved comes from textbook physics, and the military powers of the world continue to develop and deploy it.”

Stay tuned!


The International Legal Implications of “Havana Syndrome” — LAWFARE


HAVANA SYNDROME — International Legal Implications

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s