The International Red Cross has spoken out in favor of an international ban on blinding lasers -- enacted before such weapons ever reached the battlefield. The ban, which took effect July 30, outlaws the use and transfer of any laser designed to inflict permanent blindness. Such weapons could be effective from several miles away. The Red Cross said that the ban is the first of its kind since 1868, when exploding bullets were prohibited on the battlefield. Joining the chorus of praise for the action, Japan's former foreign minister, Keizo Obuchi, issued a statement calling the protocol "significant as part of international efforts toward the prohibition of inhumane conventional weapons." The human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch, however, voiced its concern that the ban did not go far enough. It said the ban might not have an effect on other lasers in the development phase. Such lasers, known as "dazzling" laser weapons, could jeopardize the effectiveness of the prohibition, according to the group.